The Freeh Report on Penn State shows us what happens to a society in which people do not hold each other accountable for being who they say they are. Now we have a great opportunity to change that culture of silence.
We mistakenly pretend that it is rude and presumptuous to tell someone when their actions do not match their words.
In fact, holding each other accountable for being who we say we are is among the greatest gifts we can offer one another. It’s the gentle reminder that we’re all in this life together, and that one of us is slipping away, momentarily, from who he says he most wants to be seen as. It’s a courageous hand on a shoulder, a brave reminder that, in the earliest stages of slipping—it may still be only human—in the big picture, we’re more than that, we’re better than that, and it matters to us that others know us as the best we are. When we withhold that hand, we ourselves become complicit in the slip: we ourselves fail to be the best we are.
It’s impossible to imagine that we don’t all feel touched by the sorrowful events that educators and trustees alike participated in, each by failing to remind the other that “we must act in consonance with who we say we are, or we are nothing. ” The price of not one hand on one shoulder to say “This is not who we are” has resulted in pain and shame and even horror at the worst we can be.
We can—we must—step up and declare that it is the pretense that is wrong behavior. We must hold each other accountable for being who we say we are in all areas of our society’s life. We must begin to see that we are all each other’s best natural resources.