BOSTON (CBS) - No one alleges that Joe Paterno, the longtime college football coach celebrated for his ethical standards, has ever condoned child sexual abuse.
Listen to Jon's commentary:
But Paterno is headed out the door in disgrace in the wake of news that he merely told his superiors about an eyewitness allegation of child rape by one of his assistant coaches, doing nothing more to pursue the facts and serving for years on the board of a charity founded by the alleged pedophile - to help at-risk youths.
A top police official is calling that a lapse of "moral responsibility," and in a statement yesterday, Paterno seemed to agree, saying: "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
And the story lends sad irony to a quip Paterno made years ago after President Richard Nixon declared Texas the nation's #1 team after they had finished tied with Penn State.
Said Paterno: "How could the president know so little about Watergate... and so much about college football?"
That's a good question.
And here's the answer - Nixon knew plenty about Watergate.
But he covered it up because he placed more value on his political career than he did on the rule of law.
No one thinks Paterno approved of his sidekick's alleged crimes.
But it seems he valued his friendship, and/or his own image more than the need for other possible victims to be protected and for justice to be done.
We see these kinds of decisions being made all the time.
Athletes who think their needs take priority over those of the team; politicians who place their party or their ego over doing the right thing for the public at large; journalists who think their view of the world takes precedence over the truth; union leaders who see the public as cows to be milked for more taxes, and corporate CEOs who sacrifice their employees' future in favor of bumping up their stock price.
At some point in your life, you will be confronted with the question -- are you just in this for yourself, or do you really care about others?
Take a tip from Joe Paterno -- better consider the consequences of making the wrong choice.
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