Annette John-Hall: Some lessons from the news of 2011

Posted: December 23, 2011

As one of the faithful, I can't help but believe that a divine hand must have played a part in shaping the biggest stories of 2011, given their sheer magnitude.

Natural disasters. Transformational uprisings. Transcendent revelations. Talk about impact - and I'm not referring to that quirky Eastern earthquake in the summer that had us all looking into investing in survival kits.

I'm talking about emotional stories that shook us to our very core, the news that changed the course of the world and the way we look at it.

From the galvanizing forces of the Arab Spring and Occupy; from visionaries like Steve Jobs to apparent fiends like Jerry Sandusky and Bill Conlin; from the privileged 1 percent to the rest of us 99, there were plenty of lessons to take from 2011 into the new year.

The biggest takeaway? You don't have to resort to Tebowing to ride a winning streak. God grants blessings not based on the righteousness you perpetrate but by the righteous truth you live.

Children victimized

Take the horrific scandal that has taken down a posse of powerful men who colluded with deceit to protect the illustrious Penn State football program.

Sure, Sandusky looked like the salt of the earth on paper. A beloved coach at a beloved institution whose seeming benevolence gave rise to the Second Mile foundation, a nonprofit he founded designed to help at-risk children.

Unfortunately, Sandusky is accused of perpetrating sick assaults on those same disadvantaged children.

And a group of enablers was willing to keep a secret, choosing the institution over the children.

But a recent grand jury report revealed all - the years of alleged abuse and coverup.

Which is fitting. As my Bible-toting grandmother used to say, what's done in the dark will eventually come to light.

Conlin, too

You have to wonder, after reports that he molested children 40 years ago, what will become of Conlin, the Hall of Fame sportswriter who, by his own estimation, is "a lot bigger to the Daily News than Sandusky ever was to Penn State."

Too bad the New Jersey statute of limitations for prosecuting him has run out. It looks like Conlin gets to slink away without having to pay a dime or serve any time, with everything except his reputation intact.

Some people would say your good name is everything. Truth is, I don't care about Conlin. In the 10 years I covered sports, I never crossed paths with him, and I'm glad. To me, he's just one more cockroach scrambling when the light's turned on.

Whom I care about in both of these cases are the victims, grown-ups now whose trauma was dismissed as children, whether it was by adults in authority or - for many complicated reasons - their own parents.

They should be the people we salute this year. We should applaud them for their courage, commend them for their fortitude, and thank them for their willingness to speak up about the unspeakable.

"They have made their stories public solely to set the record to straight, to encourage others to step forward, and to ensure that others will not be victimized in the future," said Slade McLaughlin, attorney for three women who accused Conlin of molesting them in the '70s. "The only gain they hope to realize is that of increased public awareness and the protection of others."

But we can't dismiss the significance of their actions.

Sometimes, all it takes is for one person to step up to start a revolution - whether it's the victims of sexual abuse or the democracy fighters in the Middle East.

The truth is the light.

The more people who live in it, the more they impact us all.

That's the lesson I'll take into 2012 - and beyond.

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Contact Annette John-Hall at 215-854-4986, Ajohnhall@phillynews.com, or @Annettejh on Twitter.

 

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