Jay Paterno makes his mark on Troy
TROY - During his appearance this week in Troy, Jay Paterno inspired residents and gave a boost to the Troy Food Pantry.
He also answered a question regarding the penalties against Penn State in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal and spoke on related matters.
Paterno spoke to an estimated 175-200 people in Memorial Auditorium as part of the Summer Speaker Series. Proceeds from admission and the silent auction held at the event raised about $2,400 for the food pantry, according to Matt Geer, one of the members of the Summer Speaker Series Committee.
The food pantry is seeking a new home because its current location in the old Agway Store, next to Penn-Troy Machine Co., Inc. in Troy, will no longer be available by the end of the summer.
According to Geer, a total of $13,400 has now been raised for the food pantry. The remainder of the contributions includes $5,000 from First Citizens Community Bank, $5,000 from Sylvania Presbyterian Church, and $1,000 from a Troy family that wishes to remain anonymous.
Paterno, son of the late coach Joe Paterno, made quite an impact in Troy, judging by people's reactions to his speech.
The 44-year-old is a writer; executive director of Nets4Nets, a non-profit organization fighting malaria in Africa; and a former Penn State football coach.
"I thought he presented himself very well," said the Rev. Garry Zuber, acting president of the Troy Area Christian Council, which oversees the food pantry, and a member of the Summer Speaker Series Committee. "I was appreciative of the reception to him." He said that people were cordial and polite to Paterno, and "very receptive to what he had to say."
"He was very encouraging," Zuber commented. He thought Paterno's message was to work hard and don't be afraid to follow your convictions.
Zuber was also grateful to Paterno for mentioning the food pantry in his remarks.
"I didn't expect him to make as much mention of it as he did, and I appreciate that," he said.
While most people don't have to worry about whether they will have a meal, Paterno said, it's not the case for everyone. If there is one thing we can all do better in this country, he said, it's feeding everyone.
In addition, Zuber said he was impressed by the amount of time Paterno spent with the guests after his remarks.
Doug Beck, an eighth grade teacher at Troy Junior-Senior High School, said Paterno talked to people after his speech for more than an hour. "He spent around 20 minutes conversing with some of my Troy High School students about books, writing, and life," he said.
Beck shared some comments from Troy High School sophomore Paige Jennings, who said, "he's really eloquent. I was surprised. His speech was more about life than just football."
"I enjoyed hearing him talk with my students," Beck said. "He's unpretentious, mentally awake, and incredibly genuine. His detractors should try talking to him sometime."
"There's something cool about watching your students have an intellectual conversation with Jay Paterno about favorite books and the process of writing."
According to the program at the event, Paterno is writing a book, and has finished several short stories.
Beck shared his thoughts about Paterno's speech.
"I thought his message was applicable and wise: Live in the present, cultivate passion, be optimistic, and refuse to let bitterness steal your life's power," he said.
Linda Nickerson, a member of the Summer Speaker Series Committee, liked how Paterno praised Sam Antes, who was the driving force in organizing the event, for his leadership skills.
Of Antes, Paterno said he thought it was "really, really unique" for someone in college to take "this kind of initiative."
"To have this kind of initiative and this kind of vision at that age is a sign of real leadership," he said.
Nickerson also liked how Paterno talked about the importance of listening to someone else's viewpoint.
During his speech, Paterno recalled, with fondness, family arguments at the dinner table, which drew some chuckles from the audience.
He remembered how his famous father would "very slyly play the Devil's Advocate" if everyone at the table seemed to be in agreement on something.
"He wanted us to be able to put ourselves in somebody else's shoes," he said. Jay Paterno said this taught him to "respect the other side."
Jay Paterno commented that "our country works best when we can respect each other," and talked about the importance of meeting "each other in the spirit of compromise, one on one, that allows us to move the country toward a brighter future." He cited the compromise that took place with the Bill of Rights.
Paterno spoke about Abraham Lincoln's decision to surround himself not with yes men, but rather a "Team of Rivals" in his cabinet, referencing the famous book by Doris Kearns Goodwin. When we surround ourselves with people who agree with us, Paterno said, we learn nothing new.
Reflecting on Paterno's speech, Geer said, "I liked how he said if every one person did one small thing, how it could impact the community."
During his remarks, Paterno recalled the famous quote of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who so eloquently stated, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
"What we can do for our country can take many forms," Paterno told the audience. He gave as an example Antes' efforts to start the Summer Speaker Series to benefit the food pantry.
Geer said he also liked how Paterno spoke about how "it takes one spark to get things going."
Antes was impressed when Paterno talked about his decision to stay on the coaching staff at Penn State after his father was fired, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Paterno said it wasn't an easy decision.
Paterno spoke of acting with integrity, and doing what he believed was the right thing. He noted how never once did he "flinch when asked tough questions" by the media. Paterno spoke of the importance of acting with the courage of your convictions.
"That really stood out to me, that he went back after his dad was fired," Antes said. He thought it said a lot about Jay Paterno's character and values, that despite his dad's firing, he went back because he had a job and a commitment.
"He said he had a lot of people saying he shouldn't go back," Antes commented.
Both Antes and Beck liked Paterno's nods to Abraham Lincoln, as he proved that football wasn't his only frame of reference.
"I thought it was powerful when he mentioned sorting through his dad's belongings and finding a Lincoln quotation on his desk: 'With malice towards none, and charity towards all,'" Beck commented.
Antes, though, couldn't help but get in a football question. During the question-and-answer session, he spoke to Paterno about Penn State's win over Ohio State in 2005.
In his speech, Jay Paterno also spoke about the importance of the truth, warning against the dangers of "false narratives" being accepted as fact.
It's wasn't the first time that these themes have been addressed.
Last month, the Associated Press reported that the family of late coach Joe Paterno "was joined by former players and others connected to Penn State in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the landmark sanctions for the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal."
Paterno family attorney Wick Sollers told the AP that "the broader goal is to get the truth out. This narrative that's in public that was perpetuated by the NCAA's adoption of the deeply flawed Freeh report ... cannot stand."
The AP report noted that "(former FBI director Louis) Freeh accused (Joe) Paterno and three former university officials of covering up allegations against Sandusky, who was sentenced to at least 30 years in prison after being convicted last year of dozens of criminal counts of abuse including assaults on and off campus," but, according to the AP, Joe Paterno's family and the former school officials "vehemently denied" a cover-up.
During the question-and-answer session following his speech, Jay Paterno was asked by someone in the audience about whether anything was being done about overturning his father's vacated wins, in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky case.
Jay Paterno stated that the priority was being put on overturning the sanctions that were levied.
During his speech, Jay Paterno commended people in the Commonwealth for their support of the truth.
"We know what Penn State is, we know what Penn State always stood for was real," he said.
This drew a large amount of applause from the audience.
Paterno said that "the wall of fiction against Penn State is already starting to crumble."
He said there are more and more people starting to look at the situation and saying that it doesn't add up.
"Two plus two does not equal five," he said.
"Those who built that wall can no longer defend it against the onslaught of truthâ¦," Paterno said. He expressed "hope in the truth" and spoke of the importance of optimism.
He mentioned a quote from Nelson Mandela, who stated, "I am fundamentally an optimist."
Paterno told the audience about the lesson he has learned about the pride and the honor that comes when you stand up for what is right. He spoke of how those who stand for truth and justice and "what is right' will be judged well by history.
He said that he, his family and other supporters of Penn State know that history will judge Penn State fairly, and history will realize what Penn State is truly about.
Although some people say that they expected him to be bitter, angry, and resentful, Paterno said that this isn't the case because "I can't let people touch my soul that way."
In response to question from the audience, Paterno said that his mother is doing very well, noting her involvement with Special Olympics.
He admitted to one regret, noting that his mother and father had been looking forward to retirement together. Joe Paterno passed away in January 2012
The next speaker in the Summer Speaker Series is Mary Beth Kennedy Voda, who will speak at 7 p.m. July 17. An advertisement for the event invites resident to "take a look at World War II through the correspondence of a U.S. Marine and a Japanese general." It notes that she has written a book based on her parents' letters, in addition to correspondence between General Kuribayashi and his family.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.