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Joe Battista: We Will Get Back On Our Feet Again

by on November 23, 2011 12:40 AM

This is not a statement from any organization or any directive from anyone. These are my personal feelings and I don’t represent anyone else.

This is what is bundled up inside me:

I have lived in State College for 30 years. This is my home. And Penn State is my alma mater.

You may agree or disagree with my thoughts and that is fine. Because at a time like this, we need discussion and we need to learn from each other or we will miss an opportunity to right the wrongs and to do our best to never let our collective guard down again.

So let’s get this out right now. We are hurting and we are grieving, individually and as groups. Our town, the county, the region and the university are hurting. Our students, teams, alumni, faculty and staff are hurting.

We are first and foremost hurting for the victims and their families. We all owe it to them to keep them at the center of our thoughts, prayers and actions. There are some positive signs of the healing process beginning. There are great ideas being discussed that will bring attention to the issue of child abuse like never before.

There are alums spearheading a grassroots campaign to bring the focus back on the victims called “Proud To Be A Penn Stater.”  They have partnered with RAINN.org to raise money for victims of sexual violence.

Another idea being bantered about is a concert in Beaver Stadium each spring, with proceeds going to organizations that are working with victims of abuse and for creating educational programs for schools and employers.

Like so many of you, I have been hurting too, searching for the right words to say when approached by a friend or foe. There is probably some truth to the fact that there are people out there who have been waiting for an opportunity like this to pull Penn State and “Happy Valley” down off the pedestal that some of those very people put us on to begin with. But we are at fault as well for believing our own press clippings, and perhaps placing too great an emphasis on the wrong priorities as a society.

I also encourage restraint to pass judgment on people who have not yet had their day in court one way or another. There is so much speculation and innuendo, and as a very wise friend has taught me to remember, “We have half the story at best.” This is a good time to live by the creed that “He who is without sin shall cast the first stone.” 

Therefore, I encourage everyone to keep his or her focus on the victims and their families, and to use our energies and resources to help them heal and in the process begin healing ourselves. Let the legal system do its part, while we develop ideas for helping our community and university to make amends.

Let’s begin by picking ourselves up off the ground and to start using our skills and talents to turn this sad chapter in our lives into a promise of a better future going forward.

I also want to remind all Penn State alums, faculty, staff, students, athletes and supporters to remember that 99.99 percent of you had nothing to do with any of this. You are still a part of a world-class institution and you need to remind others that you will not let the actions of a few define who you are or who we are moving forward. Don’t let this be guilt by association.

I believe our students will help lead the challenge of turning this tragedy into a positive that will improve both the understanding of the many forms of abuse in society, and to help to do something to prevent and stamp out abusive behavior.

I encourage you all to re-read or watch President Erickson’s messages – here and here -- several times and pledge to be a part of the healing.

During any difficult time in my life, I have always reached out to my mentors and to family and friends for words of wisdom. I also go back to a favorite book, quote, passage, or song for inspiration to help get through the adversity. 

Hanging in my office is the excerpt from the Teddy Roosevelt speech "Citizenship in a Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on April 23, 1910 called “The Man In The Arena.”

One of my favorite songs to listen to after a tough time is “When I’m Back on My Feet Again,” by Michael Bolton. The lyrics remind me that despite the current pain, there is always reason to hope for a better future.

Gonna break these chains around me. Gonna learn to fly again. May be hard, may be hard. But I'll do it.  When I'm back on my feet again.

Soon these tears will all be dryin'. Soon these eyes will see the sun. Might take time, might take time, But I'll see it. When I'm back on my feet again.

The following verse seems particularly appropriate given the nature of these assaults:

Gonna hear the children laughing. Gonna hear the voices sing. Won't be long, won't be long

’til I hear them. When I'm back on my feet again.

While it may take time to get your Penn State Pride back, just remember that justice will be served, and people will see the strength of our pride, a pride of Lions. So, with a little “poetic license,” I have slightly altered the chorus for the purpose of concluding this column:

When we’re back on our feet again, we’ll walk proud down this street again, and they'll all look at us again, and they'll see that we’re strong.



From ice hockey to Intercollegiate Athletics and Smeal, JoeBa has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities. Battista was an influential player in the effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley. He is now Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Buffalo Sabres.
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