Who are we to rewrite the past?

I really need to write about some current events, but not for the reason everyone else is talking about those events. There’s a reoccurring issue in these events—again, not the one that everyone is talking about—that isn’t sitting well with me, and it’s been gnawing at me for quite some time. I had planned on posting about my month-long exercise in gratitude, but that will have to wait for another day. Today, I have to set free these thoughts that are troubling my mind.

Bill Cosby. I do not condone his actions by any means. Tiger Woods. I don’t condone his actions either. Joe Paterno, the Penn State coach while Jerry Sandusky was on staff. Richard Nixon. There are many other names I could add here, but these will suit my purpose.

These four men achieved some very great accomplishments in their lives, but they will forever be remembered for the bad choice(s) that they made.

Bill Cosby served in the Navy. He was the spokesperson for Jell-O products for twenty-five years, a remarkable achievement in the world of advertising. He has 17 Grammy Awards nominations and has won 9. He has 8 Emmy Awards nominations and has won 4. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and he received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award.

Tiger Woods was the youngest man (at the age of 21) and the first African-American to win the U.S. Masters. He has been world number one for the most consecutive weeks and for the greatest total number of weeks of any other golfer. He has been awarded PGA Player of the Year a record 11 times. He has won 14 professional major golf championships, the second highest of any player (Jack Nicklaus leads with 18), and 79 PGA Tour events, second all-time behind Sam Snead, who had 82 wins. Tiger has more career major wins and career PGA Tour wins than any other active golfer.

Joe Paterno was one of the most successful coaches in the history of college football. His career with Penn State spanned 62 years, and during each of those years he mentored more than 100 players. Do the math on that. He ended up with 409 wins, more than any other collegiate coach in history. Over the course of his career, nearly 350 of his players went on to play in the NFL.

Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency and created more new national parks than any other president. In three years he reduced the deficit by $17 billion, nearly 70 percent. He was the president who ended the draft. He fought for (and won) the right to vote at age eighteen. He opened up trade with China. He was the first president to go to Moscow, and he negotiated SALT.

Bill Cosby will likely spend the rest of his life being remembered as a serial rapist. Tiger Woods will always be an unfaithful husband. Joe Paterno will forever be linked to his staffer Sandusky, who committed unspeakable crimes against young boys. And former President Nixon will be known as the president who resigned before he could be impeached and was pardoned before he could be tried and serve time for his crimes.

Again, let me emphasize, I don’t condone their actions. But I have to wonder, how can we rewrite history and no longer talk about the great things these men did? Do we erase all mention of Tiger’s record wins? It doesn’t change the score of golf rounds on those past days. What point is there in naming someone else as the college coach with the most wins? It doesn’t negate the fact that Joe coached all those games that his teams won. Do we forget that President Nixon essentially halted nuclear war? Since he did such bad things should we no longer honor him with the title of President?

I don’t want to minimize the wrongs these men did, but I also don’t want to erase from history all of the good things they accomplished. We all need to learn from our own mistakes and the mistakes of others. And we all need to celebrate achievements and strive to be the best at something. Just because we don’t like the actions of someone, that doesn’t mean we should erase that person from history as if he never existed. What would happen if we erased all mention of Hitler? It’s bad enough that some younger people today don’t believe Auschwitz ever existed. Just think of the atrocities that might occur if we forgot all of those horrors. We must learn from our past. “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

 

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