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We Are … Lives Here

by on November 28, 2013 7:00 AM

With a lot of fanfare and with what I am pretty sure was with not minimal expense Penn State rolled out its latest ad campaign with the slogan that says "Penn State Lives Here."

There are in excess of one hundred organizations that have used "Insert Name Lives Here".

Most notably ESPN has used "College Football Lives Here" for several years and uses variations of it for things like "Big Game Saturday Lives Here", "College Game Day Lives Here."

Apparently there are a lot of people and organizations doing a lot of living here, wherever it is that "here" is.

The point of this column is not to be critical, even though this is the administration's second swing at a university-wide campaign in about twelve months or so. Last year it was a mid-six figure "Faces of Penn State" campaign including banners and a web site.

Last spring I spoke to a public relations class and asked the students about the "Faces of Penn State" campaign and the blank looks on every face spoke volumes about that campaign's effectiveness.

My beef with "Penn State Lives Here" isn't that it is not entirely original. It is that it is a completely passive slogan. This university community needs a call to action.

It needs a slogan that is tested and recognizable. We need a call to all students and alumni to remember their role in having made Penn State the nation's best land-grant university while also reminding them that they will always be part of building what comes in the future.

Our students will continue to do great things. THON will grow, students will win national academic competitions, student-athletes should continue to graduate and excel in athletic competition, and faculty members will remain leaders in their fields. Our alums will continue to start companies, found non-profits that better our world, serve in the military, the statehouse, congress, write novels, or teach students in classrooms around the country and around the world.

Those are active pursuits; a daily affirmation that all of us are Penn State. Individually we are part of the collective WE that we shout when we say "WE are Penn State." It is a call to alumni to become stakeholders in the future governance and future greatness of our University.

"Penn State Lives Here" lets us off the hook. We can sit back and let others drive the bus.

"We Are" reminds us that our Alma Mater can only rise as high as her truest stakeholders, her students, alumni and friends, will lift her. It is inclusive, and should remind us every day that we are the ones to state our university's case; to show the world what Penn State is all about.

It requires us to accept differing viewpoints, to listen to each other. We have researchers who are working on climate change issues and others who disagree with them. We have professors working on alternative energy and professors who did research on fracking in the Marcellus Shale. There are professors compiling Ernest Hemingway's letters, another running a mutual fund with his students, and others doing research on concussions.

Some professors work on trying to improve our dietary intake and reduce obesity while across campus we have the greatest and decadent ice cream in the world and a program that spreads that ice cream know-how around the planet.

We have students publishing papers in academic journals, others engaged in multiple philanthropic pursuits, and still others serving in the ROTC programs preparing for careers in the military.

We are a diverse university that is based in service to our commonwealth and to our country. That is so much more than just "Living Here".

This is just scratching the surface of what makes us unique.

"We Are" asks us to realize the current challenges demand that we act, not just live. To paraphrase John F Kennedy "ask not what Penn State can do for you, but rather ask what you can do for Penn State."

Does anyone believe that we'd recall Kennedy's inaugural address delivered in challenging times if he'd have said "America Lives Here?"

Maybe the answer to the slogan this school needed was too obvious. It's something that's been shouted at football games for decades, but also passed from individual Penn Staters encountering each other at places halfway around the globe almost as a secret code that we belong to something so special.

As we sit down to tables across this country today for Thanksgiving, in our minds we must be grateful that we have been impacted by this University. But being impacted is not enough, we should to make an impact, to make the Penn State future that we seek.

Penn State Lives Here; in our hearts. But that is not enough, our school needs us to be active, to take up the cause. Without a cause, without action are we really living?

The future of our beloved University requires us to be a part of the we when we say "We Are ..."

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State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/JayPaterno
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