Joe Paterno, former football head coach at Penn State, passed away last Sunday. Because of his position, power and influence he had over the past decade, so many people has been reacting in various ways over what has been called the biggest US college scandal and the way Penn State fired Paterno unceremoniously to handle the situation. Paterno was fired about 2 months ago for having known but not taking appropriate action to stop the child abuse that was committed over many years by Sandusky.
My connection to the case is only that I am currently a student at Penn State World Campus. But this situation has dismayed me, stirring up my emotions, making me thing over this matter. It is precisely that there are so much emotional responses by various people. Suffering of children who were abused. Anger and frustration by people who tried to stop the abuse but could not. Jealousy of people who were eclipsed by the Paternos. Indignation by Penn State students and alumini. All along, greatest distress of Joe Paterno and his immediate family. The ripple effect of emotion is greater than the past because with Internet news and SNS, news travel quickly and thoroughly, but unfortunately, just like any other times in the history, news are distorted because they are all bits and pieces that were told from only one perspective.
My perspective is that growing up in the US the 70’s, I watched a lot of NCAA football on TV, and I liked Penn State and looted for them because I liked the image that I saw on the TV how Joe Paterno and the team behaved and played. The main reason why I chose Penn State to continue my formal education is because of the image I had of Joe Paterno and how the team played stayed with me for 30 years. So when I heard of the news, I was shocked. It was about deciding to trusting someone, and finding out that my judgment was wrong. I thought, I am spending all this money on education, and the name Penn State now gives bad image, even though I was in no way involved with the scandal or even had any notion of it when I chose Penn State.
Even today, the emotional storm continues. Penn State media pours out stories that tells story of Joe Paterno the good, focusing on all his wonderful achievement over the years. News media and people who are protector and defender of sexually abused children use the case to deter and warn people with power and authority in their acts. What really matters? It seems the vindication of the overall goodness of a person. Would history be told that Joe Paterno made positive impact to educating young people, or that Joe Paterno was pretentious educator who did not thoroughly protect the weak and disadvantaged? Indeed, this incident is epitome of the era of reputation economy.
Joe Paterno was a great man, who used his ability to do the very best he can. From my perspective, he caused me to go through intricate and tedious process of re-start my formal university education, because of the image of goodness I remember from 30 years ago of him and his team. I am saddened that his last days were overwhelmed by bombardment of hostile words and treatment, much of them abusive. Physical abuse is visible, where verbal is not. Unlike the past, history is not made by very limited number of people who had power to write. Today, people from all kinds of perspectives write, including you and me. People of the future, hopefully will have chance to take time to read cross section of the writings and decide about Joe Paterno.
How is this applicable to business? It’s about sustainability, continuity of business. An individual or company builds up good reputation by achievements big and small. If the human stories of achievements are recorded and publicized continuously, longer this recorded history, less an individual or company will be affected by mistakes they will inevitably make. This continuous publication of achievements are books, blogs, videos. They must be accessible on Internet, but printed books are just as important.