Eighteen months ago I emailed former Penn State President Graham Spanier to request a letter of recommendation for a program with the Department of Homeland Security.
He responded, Ill be happy to do this. Good luck.
Though he was serving as president of one of the largest and best universities in the world, he made time to write the recommendation.
That act of kindness is very insignificant compared with what hes accomplished in the 16 years of making Penn State a more enriched university, yet its a testament to who Spanier is, an impeccable leader.
Hes a man who each year would help a lucky group of incoming freshmen move into their dorm before classes began and who on other occasions would perform magic shows for crowds of students.
I got to know Spanier through Penn States Presidential Leadership Academy when I took a course taught by him called Developing Critical Thinking for Leadership. In the course, my mind was expanded to become more transparent when seeking answers to tough questions.
I also learned the importance of not basing judgments on knee-jerk reactions and emotions.
From this perspective, Im certain the whole truth regarding Sandusky has not yet been fully revealed, and Louis Freehs report is heavily biased partially because he was pressured by society to draw conclusions and vilify individuals as the mob mentality grows.
People demand answers regardless of whether theyre accurate, and the Freeh report delivered those.
My opinion may be wildly unpopular, but Ill always stand for whats right and tell the truth. The fact is the Freeh report was heavily biased toward Spanier and others.
In the beginning of the 267-page report it was stated that key players were not interviewed for the investigation, among them Mike McQueary and former university outside legal counsel Wendell Courtney, among others.
Ill be the first to admit Spanier and others in power could have been more proactive in handling the situations in 1998 and 2001 more effectively. However, it must be taken into account that at the time, the Sandusky reports were only allegations made by a graduate assistant who either reported the incident as horseplay or went into more detail than that, but thats still not clear.
People must not forget that Sandusky was a well-respected legend in the community who was highly thought of by many. He was a master deceiver even to those closest to him, including his wife and coach Joe Paterno.
I wouldnt be surprised if readers are shaking their heads in disgust and scoffing at my perspective, but here is where my perspective gets even more thought-provoking.
For eight years as a child, I was abused and neglected. My childhood was robbed from me and is something to this day I wish I could have back.
I can relate to the trust issues, relational problems and psychological difficulties felt by Sanduskys victims. Moreover, another interesting piece to the puzzle is that my background also rings a bell, with Spanier.
Spanier was a victim of child abuse too. Abuse comes in many forms, not just sexual. It can be physical, mental, emotional or a combination. I found out more about Spaniers past when we met for breakfast in January, a week before I left to study in South Africa, where Spanier was born.
He said that having grown up as an abused child himself, he would never let something like this knowingly happen under his watch.
As a society we sometimes turn into an angry mob, impatient and quick to condemn until answers are delivered, whether true or not.
The best thing to do right now is to take a step back and see things from a different perspective. People believe in many things, but too often beliefs are not based on facts. The bias of the Freeh report and the coverage by the media do not always deliver the facts, the truth.
Lets not get away from those who matter the most but have unfortunately been forgotten in the headlines the victims. More people are currently talking about the removal of a statue of a football coach and taking away the focus of this entire ordeal. The prayers, thoughts and attention of the world need to be centered on what can be done to recognize and prevent child abuse.
As Spanier has said, It is our responsibility to prepare students to understand that the most difficult decisions in todays world require the examination of all sides of an issue. It is in the gray area that the greatest challenges reside.
Brice H. Smith is a Penn State senior. He has studied in Cape Town, South Africa, and interned with Sen. Bob Casey in Washington.