Wednesday August 22nd was an exceptionally beautiful day in Centre County, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University. Not a cloud in the sky with a perfect temperature of 72 degrees. The type of day to enjoy this wonderful place I have called my home for over 40 years.
Our tranquil community tucked into a valley and surrounded by the mountains of Central Pennsylvania, has been anything but tranquil in recent months. The events surrounding the Jerry Sandusky case have shaken this community to its core.
The events of the last year have changed the collective consciousness of an entire community in ways that none of us can yet understand. Many of us have moments of sadness; sometimes anger, and some don't want to think about it at all.
For me, this beautiful August day is a time for reflection. In listening to discussions around town and on campus, I sense many others within our community are doing a lot of reflecting as well. It seems that we are collectively realizing that the truth of who we are and what this community and university represent, is incontrovertible. And if we move forward together with a shared purpose and common ideals, the very ideals that have long characterized this community, we will emerge stronger than ever.
Something egregious happened in our beloved college town. Seemingly out of nowhere, State College experienced its own "Black Swan" event. I didn't see it coming; nor did anyone else.
A Black Swan event is defined as an event that occurs totally unexpectedly and carries enormous potential impact.
It's no exaggeration to say that this event was entirely unpredictable, and it's no exaggeration to describe the impact as "devastating"; not only to the State College community, but also to our university.
We share a sorrow and anguish for the young boys who were victimized by Mr. Sandusky, and ignored by others. Everyday we are reminded of these things, and as a community, shall never forget.
I believe in this town. I believe we have a common resolve to endure these events and to ensure that such things never happen again in our midst. That resolve is being backed by the countless actions of humanity and charity being taken by community members every day.
Like many others, I was one who believed in Joe Paterno's "Grand Experiment". I believed that we were heads above the rest in creating a balance between college athletics and academics, and I still do. And so as I reflect, I am saddened by the events of the past year, but also excited about a future that I am now realizing together, we can manifest.
I suspect there comes a time in all of our lives when the essential nature and character of a person is revealed. The same can be said of many great institutions and even communities. This moment in our history can define the character of State College, Pennsylvania and Penn State.
It is time to show the country what our community and university are truly about and how we plan to shape our future. Our message to the rest of the nation will not be some slick marketing campaign, but instead a natural expression of whom we are and what we're made of.
Organizations are being formed all over Centre County, in which thousands of people are participating. One such organization is called, "Together We Are One".
"Together We Are One", is both a call to action and an invitation to the entire nation to hear our story and visit our community and campus; a town and university filled with natural beauty and an indomitable spirit.
Something very different is happening here now as we align together to move forward. Our message to the returning students, to the parents of the returning students, to local businesses, to P.S.U. alumni and to every person who lives in the Centre Region is about awakening a spirit of courage, fortitude and resilience and that lies within each of us.
I am witnessing a spirit emerge as I have never seen before. An entire community is waking up, and I believe, embracing this moment within OUR collective history, I think more and more of the 750,000 people affected in some way by this event are instinctively understanding that we can define the future for our community and campus, based on our strong principles and determined action. We have collectively decided not to let others define WHO WE ARE.
I am convinced that as we share our stories with others, more and more people will experience a renewed hope and optimism about what lies ahead.
As Fall approaches, I'm witnessing this town come alive again. We're emerging from our shock and horror and from our reticence to speak out. We are moving forward individually and collectively. We are discovering that together as one, we can define the path to our future.
I am honored to be a part of this journey, and ask you, along with your neighbors and friends, to join in this transformational journey.