I AM…PENN STATE. My name is Kevin McDonald, and I am Penn State. My late grandmother is Penn State. Many of my best friends are Penn State. Though I have questioned it lately, I hope that my sons are one day Penn State. Those of my family that attended other colleges have even bled Blue and White regardless of the colors of their respective alma maters. Those of my friends from Pennsylvania that never set foot on a college campus are even Penn State. I grew up in a small town in North Eastern Pennsylvania…NEPA for short. NEPA is Penn State. That WE ARE, PENN STATE leaves us in a current state of melancholy. However, amidst the reprehensible acts, the appropriate outrage, the shouts for heads to roll, and the heartfelt sadness for the true victims, I hope to add some context for a collegiate family in collective despair. Though this is a Penn State scandal, I believe it is unfair to characterize the scandal as a full and fair representation of Penn State…of what it is to be PENN STATE. While at an early age I was told of the greatness of JoPa and that the sky is blue and white because God loves Penn State that much, I have not always been a fan of Joe. In my early twenties, after mediocre seasons and lackluster bowl performances I half-heartedly paid attention to PSU football. I cursed Joe and the program for a lack of winning and an inability to maintain a competitive level equivalent to that of the likes of USC and Ohio State. I was one of many hoping he would resign and be replaced by someone who cared more about winning and rankings than academia and life lessons. However, as I grew older and had kids of my own I began to understand the virtue of JoPa, what he stood for, and why those qualities were more important than winning. It is a surreal situation that a coach of 50 years heading one of the most academically successful programs in history is being portrayed as someone who cared about football only. That a university considered a “public Ivy” has been reduced to a “football culture” of uneducated lemmings. But, I am not without rational thought. I believe the board should step down. I understand that there was wrongdoing by Joe and feel that he was rightly dismissed. However, I am not here to defend the indefensible. I am here to defend Penn State. Christine Brennan, USA Today columnist, stated on ESPN Radio that she would be the first one crying for the ‘death penalty’ if her Northwestern University committed such heinous acts. While her rants make for good press, no rational mind would damn an entire university and a team of young men that were about 6 years old at the time of these horrific acts all for the sins of a few. While it makes for good talk radio, it reveals ridiculous short-sidedness and a small-minded approach toward setting things on the correct path. The spotlight is on Penn State. Leave it there, we can handle it. We can begin mending wounds, promoting awareness for at risk youth, and setting an example for other universities to heed as they design the future of college athletics. It has been over a decade since I lived in Pennsylvania, but it is still “where I’m from”. Over the past months I have asked myself many questions. I have put on a Penn State shirt only to turn around at the front door, walk upstairs, and change to a plain white T. I have wondered what to do this upcoming season. How to cheer…if I should do so in public? Should my 5 and 3 year old boys wear their Penn State jerseys? Is this a lesson in standing up for an institution and an experience I believe in, or the hard
knocks of knowing when to cut bait? I can’t replace my degree. I can’t replace the memories of my four years on that campus or the experience of being a white kid from a then white town going to college and meeting kids of different races and religions, many of whom I consider family to this day. I can’t narrow horizons that were broadened by educators, classmates, and in some cases by the work and giving of Joe Paterno himself. I cannot dismiss the years that I have been Penn State…the conversations with my Grandmother before she died about Penn State football and how it didn’t matter if they won or lost, as long as they did so with honor…the memory of going berserk as a child with my brother when Penn State beat Miami. There will always be those good times, and now there will always be scars. This is life after all. I am, Penn State. And I am sorry. I am sorry for the victims. I am sorry for the collateral damage. I am sorry for the innocence lost. I am sorry for the anger. I am sorry for the inaccurate media portrayal of our institution as a “football factory” in the name of personal gain via an Around the Horn shout-fest. I am human. I feel deeply for those who suffer injustices or unnecessary harm. I ache for the victims and the unknowing. I watch TV and pray that there will be some miraculous media decision to collectively disassociate the guilty and those involved from my Penn State. We are, Penn State…and it is on us that the responsibility for cleaning up this mess falls. We cannot rely on our leaders, but we can rely on our masses. For years we have raised millions for the largest studentrun philanthropy for children with cancer (The Four Diamonds Fund/Dance Marathon). We have passionately donated to causes, pushed the boundaries in many academic disciplines, bled for our country, served the world at large...and we have done so with humility. Unleash that power on volunteerism for at-risk youth, the very kids that Jerry Sandusky preyed upon, and you will have a revolution. LaVar Arrington was correct. We all should pay more attention…ask more questions…do more for these kids. From the downfall of our leaders should rise the truth of our convictions. I am Penn State and I am deeply saddened. But, I will never be sorry to be Penn State. There is too much good in Happy Valley. It is built on much more than one man and one group of ill-intended leaders. A university built solely on a football factory would not survive these tragic events. We will survive…because WE ARE, PENN STATE. I am Penn State. I will stand up to my adversity. I will be a part of the solution. I will always be Penn State, and for that I will never be sorry.