Paterno’s Legacy – And Ours

Jan 24 2012 @ 12:32pm

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Ari Kohen reflects:

When I read about Joe Paterno’s passing this weekend — on two separate occasions, strangely — I found it impossible to separate the coaching legend of so many decades from the sexual abuse scandal of recent memory. For good or ill, one event or choice can fundamentally alter public perception of a person’s life and legacy.

Indeed, this is a central element of the book project on classical heroism that I just finished. The image of ourselves that we want to present to the world isn’t necessarily the one that will actually be presented or accepted, especially if there is some sort of anomalous behavior that doesn’t fit with that image. At bottom, there are only so many decisions we can make in a short lifetime, which is why each decision we make matters a great deal.

(Photo: Students and those in the community embrace one another as they hold a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Joe Paterno, the former Penn State football coach who died earlier in the morning, on Old Main Lawn on the campus of Penn State on January 22, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania. Paterno, who was 85, died due to complications from lung cancer. By Patrick Smith/Getty Images.)