Joe Paterno's Legacy: Do More

11/14/2011 09:26 am ET | Updated Jan 14, 2012
  • Jon Kerr Online journalist, author, speaker

Joe Paterno didn't say much last week. A lot was said about him, some accurate, some not. He did deserve to be fired. He does not deserve to have all the good things he has done in his career forgotten about because he failed to act responsibly in one situation.

One thing he did say should be consumed by anyone interested in this case: "I should have done more." It's the only words of contrition we've gotten from Paterno. They are also the most prophetic.

If Paterno had done more, he would have listened to Mike McQueary in 2002 tell him he saw former assistant Jerry Sandusky rape a child in a shower. And he would have asked more questions:

"Exactly what did you see?"
"Exactly who was there?"
"Exactly when did this take place?"
"Again, what did you see? Tell me exactly."

If Paterno had done more, he would not have just told his boss, the now disgraced Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, what McQueary told him. No, if Curley told Paterno he would handle it, Paterno should have insisted someone from law enforcement or child protective services be contacted. And then he should have followed up a day, two days, or a week later to ensure someone was taking action. If not, he would have done it himself. He then would have made sure Sandusky never stepped foot on Penn State facilities ever again.

Those are the actions of someone who has the courage and conviction to do more. You don't amass over 400 victories as a head coach without living by this philosophy. Unfortunately for Paterno, this belief structure didn't permeate into other aspects of his life, otherwise Sandusky would be in prison and he'd still be coaching.

So let's take a final lesson from Joe Pa, spin this horrendous tragedy into life's marching orders.

How can we do more? How can we prevent pain and suffering in our own communities?

We hope the act isn't as dramatic as preventing alleged child rape. No, it can be as small as striking up a conversation with someone at a local Starbucks who needs friendly edification. An extra hour of volunteer work at a local charity. Drop an extra dollar into the Boy's or Girl's Scouts fundraising jar. Leave work 15 minutes early to give yourself a little bonus time at your kid's basketball game. Spend an extra two minutes thanking a veteran for his time serving our country.

It doesn't have to be a lot. The smallest gestures have the greatest impact. No one understands this more than Joe Paterno.

If only he would have done more.