To Do the Right Thing

by Melissa Brunner

This is not to condemn nor defend Joe Paterno. Rather, I think it should give everyone pause to look inside ourselves and examine to what extent we are - and should be - willing to do the right thing.

As the Board of Trustees acknowledged at its news conference Wednesday night, this is bigger than Penn State football. At the core are several young men who, if the charges are proven, were hurt by one man and, if the charges are further proven, were not protected by people in a position of authority to do so. Let's not forget that.

But how hard is it to speak up? I submit that similar situations play out more often than you think. Ask Topeka Police what one of the most frustrating challenges of their job is and they'll tell you it's getting witnesses to speak up about what they saw. Remember Marini McKnight? She was gunned down two years ago trying to break up a fight in Topeka's Central Park. A crowd of people was around - yet no one can tell police who did it. It's the same story in other incidents, too. There is fear over the repercussions of getting involved. If you speak up, what might happen to you? But you must ask whether you're willing to let the person hurt someone else because of the risk to yourself.

I'm sure some people will say the risks don't compare - that the "risks" Joe Paterno faced were more selfish - that he put a prestigious job and big paycheck ahead of the boys who allegedly became victims. In contrast, it could be said, the witnesses to a violent crime may be risking the safety of themselves or their loved ones. Though the answer may not be as cut and dried, the question is the same - what's the right thing to do? How difficult must it be before we should not be compelled to do the right thing?

The Penn State trustees sent a message that Joe Paterno should have done more. Paterno himself said, in hindsight, he wishes he had done more. When our time comes, will we do more?

 

 

 

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