Lately, the Department of Homeland Security has been promoting a phrase — "See something, say something" — in the hopes that folks will alert proper authorities if something stirs suspicion.
That same motto would have served Penn State University officials well over the better part of the past two decades. In recent days, we've learned that covering up was far more common than speaking up at Penn State.
Penn State's earth-shaking scandal involving former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky and 10 young boys, 45 charges of sexual abuse and a 15-year cover up now implicates not only the evil predator, but many of the most powerful leaders at the university.
These enablers who protected a vile pedophile were highlighted by former FBI Director Louis Freeh in a report commissioned by the university.
According to a Reuters news account, the 267-page report identified that the late legendary football coach Joe Paterno, former Penn State President Graham Spanier, Vice President and finance official Gary Schultz, and Athletic Director Tim Curley attempted to avoid "bad publicity" by "repeatedly concealing critical facts."
The Freeh report also reveals grand jury findings showing "that these four men knew about a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky relating to sexual misconduct with a young boy in a Penn State football locker room shower."
This information was kept from the Penn State's Trustees and no action was taken toward the assistant coach. Curley and Schultz now face charges of perjury and failure to report child abuse.
Compounding the cover-up is the sequence of events that occurred in February 2001 with a former graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, who witnessed Sandusky engaging in a sex act with a young boy, then reported what he saw to Coach Paterno. Paterno spoke with university officials who never acted after the coach convinced them to "keep the reports internal."
This tragedy demonstrates complete institutional failure due to those in leadership refusing to lead. The reputation of Coach Joe Paterno, which was once stellar on the field and pristine in the Penn State community, has been ruined through fear and inaction.
The others that were influenced and biased by an authority figure that participated in such a cover up are no less guilty.
Our institutions — from universities to corporations and churches to government -- are only as honest, virtuous and strong as the leaders within them.