Meadville Tribune


February 15, 2012

‘JoePa’s legacy’ offers rich debate

MEADVILLE — Jim Irwin’s excellent column concerning Joe Paterno and his legacy (“Joe Paterno leaves legacy of integrity, decency and honor,” Feb. 3) got me to thinking about the Penn State coach and man’s need for legacy. Irwin made a strong case for Paterno and his appropriate actions related to the alleged Sandusky sexual assaults on children.

I must confess that, like many people, I may have rushed to judgment when I asserted that Joe could have and should have done more. Of course, had he done more, the whole discussion and Irwin’s brilliant argument would have been unnecessary. Who knows?

No one was more acutely aware of personal legacy — what will be left in others’ minds about us and our actions — than Joe Paterno. I think everything he did for the last 20 years was done to establish a positive legacy. He probably should have retired from coaching five years before he was forced out, but hung on tenaciously to secure the most victories by a coach in the history of Division I football.

He and his wife made a huge donation to Penn State for a library and also funded a scholarship for Penn State students. The finances, by the way, were from their personal savings and presumably would have gone to their children. While his kids are well established and were doubtless well taken care of, he literally took from his family for the well-being of his beloved Penn State and its students. Only God knows how many other things the Paternos did for Penn State.

Unselfish acts no doubt, but also an investment in the Paterno legacy. Mind you, there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is much right with that. All of us are trying to leave something behind that will reflect positively on our presence and time spent in this life. Some of us have the potential to do things that will have a greater impact than others. Some of us will fritter away that potential on our own selfish needs. Others, like Paterno, will put their resources to something that will effect the lives and memories of generations to come. I guess you could say that in some ways these acts of generosity might ultimately be self-serving, but in other ways they are acts of human nobility.

All that being said, I was struck by the fact that men more than women think about “legacy.” I have struggled with the validity of my observation as well as the causes for the male preoccupation for this rather abstract principle. I have asked others and gotten some interesting possibilities. The biological imperative to procreate over the greatest number of recipients is both cause and effect of a primal need to establish “legacy.” Another suggested that our society enforces a patriarchal need to lead, support and be concerned about the future of the family. You and I know many families where that is not the case, yet the men in those families are more likely to consider the elements of “legacy” than the very dominant women in those families.

A third person observed that women are more concerned about the present and the very immediate future of family and career than men. “My mom,” he said, “baked bread every day; and my dad, though very old, planted hardwood trees he would never see mature.”

I’ll bet a man invented the granite tombstone in hopes of securing a small piece of immortality. I believe men get in trouble when their grasp exceeds their reach — when they try too hard to do things that are inconsistent with their morality or good judgment in the present or when their present makes any hopes of “legacy” difficult or impossible. In terms of this whole idea, Emerson said it best when he wrote, “Leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.”

That advice is something we all can strive for and achieve and it makes infinite sense doesn’t it?

DeSantis is a Meadville resident.

Text Only
  • Many veterans suffer PTSD, which needs to be dealt with

    Initially, I intended this article to be about PTSD “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” I wanted to write about the myths and misconceptions that those four words may hold. But as the days went by, the story just wouldn’t come together for me. Everything I typed seemed to miss something. There was no feeling.

    April 17, 2014

  • Journalists in combat zones ‘write with light’ while risking their lives

    I first heard the news on National Public Radio on my car radio. On April 4, the day before elections in Afghanistan, an Afghan military officer walked up to a car in a convoy and opened fire. Anja Niedringhaus, a staff photographer for The Associated Press, died instantly.

    April 16, 2014

  • There’s no war on men and boys — it’s quite the opposite

    Two weeks ago, Paul Dici submitted an column titled “It’s time to fight against the war on men and boys” (March 28). Mr. Dici would have us believe that men and boys are being “wussified” by a progressive agenda that may jeopardize our national security. Also, he makes the point that men and boys are not given the same advantages (programs) as women and girls.

    April 14, 2014

  • McCord outsourcing ‘scandal’ reminds me of Y2K fears

    With only seven weeks to go until the May primary election, the campaigns are expected to get a lot hotter and more negative.

    April 13, 2014

  • Can we trust luck when it comes to the nuclear industry?

    Let’s review the history to better understand a major concern of today.

    April 11, 2014

  • Aging — is it a disease to be cured?

    If you are already old, get ready for what comes next. If you are not old yet but on the way, it is not too early to start thinking about aging and dying, because both are part of being human.

    April 10, 2014

  • Local high school students help keep future of journalism bright

    Significant technological and economic changes have caused some to question the future of journalism, both as a viable business enterprise and as a potential career. But if the proceedings of the eighth annual Northwest Pennsylvania High School Journalism Day are any indication, journalism is alive and well, especially in Crawford County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Reps want to hang ‘English only’ sign at the Capitol

    Pennsylvania, it turns out, is one of 19 states that have failed to address the menace that is non-English. Or maybe it’s un-English? Or dis-English? There must be a word for it.

    April 8, 2014

  • The Arc: A welcoming community of support

    Let me give you some background about services that The Arc of Crawford, Warren and Forest counties provide to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These individuals are your neighbors, loved ones and family members.

    April 7, 2014 1 Story

  • Outside the Box: Gather information and weigh your options — but always go on your guts

    Years ago, I was working in my father’s home office. I grabbed a gold Cross pen to sign a letter. Hours later, my dad wanted to know where the pen was. He was insistent. What’s the big deal, I wondered.

    April 2, 2014