Some people run against things. Others run for them.
This week ballots were sent to alumni for the Penn State Board of Trustees election. I am candidate #29 on the ballot.
When I originally decided to run for the Penn State Board of Trustees, the most typical response from friends was an incredulous "Why?" With the University still recovering from the Sandusky Scandal, a Board under intense criticism and a national reputation severely damaged, they saw little upside. But then again, most of these friends weren't Penn State grads.
My original urge was sparked from practical purposes - I thought that my professional skills as a nationally respected communicator and children's advocate are ones that have been sorely missing on our Board in the past and are critical to our future.
As time went on and the election process continued, I was discouraged by the direction of the discourse and process, and saw perhaps a more pressing motivation.
With negative messaging, candidates jockeying for endorsements, advertising campaigns and even the equivalent of political action committees, our own election began to take on many elements that we least admire about electoral politics.
Too much running against and not enough running for.
So on Saturday, as I went for a run through the Penn State campus, this question ran through my head, "What am I running for?" And everywhere I looked I saw another reminder.
Starting downtown, I ran up Bigler Road towards East Halls, where my Penn State experience began years ago in 907 Tener Hall. I remembered my mom dropping me off on that first day with tears of pride in her eyes, knowing that her son would be the first in our family to go to college. And I thought of all the parents and students trying to enjoy that same shared, affordable dream
I then headed west on Curtin Road running past the back of the Pattee Paterno library and thought of the alumni who have given so much back to the University - measured not just in dollars but in time, commitment and love. Alumni that deserve to hold their head high when someone asks where they went to school.
Running further along, I came up to the Nittany Lion Shrine, where most alumni will bring their children to sit for the most familiar of Penn State photo ops. I thought of my own little girls sitting there and wondered what they will think of my alma mater when the time comes to consider colleges of their own.
Finally, as I moved back towards my starting point downtown, I paused in front of Old Main and thought of our leadership, the many challenges they face, the fences they must mend, the community still to be healed.
Like most Penn State alumni, I spent sleepless nights and troubled days trying to come to terms with the events of last year, the actions of our leadership and the picture the media painted of our alma mater that in no way resembled what I knew to be true of her students, alumni and faculty.
It has been a real honor of mine, throughout my career, to see and to share the true story of Penn State.
In books, on television shows, online and on campus, I've had the opportunity to showcase the best of what is Penn State. Whether that be profiling Sue Paterno's deep commitment with the Special Olympics, sharing the moving experience of a THON family who lost one child to cancer while another danced to end it, to most recently working with Scott Shirley and Uplifting Athletes to rally Penn Staters to do over 10,000 push ups to create awareness of the impact of rare diseases.
Somehow these stories have gotten lost on America.
We all have our own stories of friends or family, who are truer representations of Penn State than anything ripped from scandalous headlines.
Just yesterday, I received an email from a classmate's daughter in Dillsburg, PA. She thanked us for supporting her middle school's mini dance marathon, one that raised more than $40,000 to help fight cancer.
As amazing as it seems, it came as no real surprise. She has watched her parents, both Penn State grads, turn our annual gathering of our Penn State friends into a twenty year opportunity to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund.
Those who went to Penn State know Penn State. It's time make sure that the world knows the real story about our school. One that respects our past, responds to our failings and restores our cherished reputation.
I'm not running against the Board of Trustees. I am running for Penn State.
And I am not asking for votes. I'm asking for the opportunity to tell our story better.