JAKE TAPPER: Thank you Mr. President. The other day you told ESPN that the scandal at Penn State, which you said was heartbreaking, should prompt soul-searching throughout the nation. I’m wondering if you could elaborate on that, what exactly you meant. And I know you’re a big fan of college sports, if this is something you think that is an indictment not just of what happened at Penn State allegedly but how athletics are revered in universities.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think that is the kind of soul searching that I was referring to, Jake.
You’re right, I’m a big college sports fan. I think that when it’s kept in perspective college athletics not only provides a great outlet for competition for young people but helps to build a sense of community and can help to brand a university in a way that is fun and important.
But what happened at Penn State indicates that at a certain point folks start thinking about systems and institutions and don’t think about individuals and when you think about how vulnerable kids are for the alleged facts of that case to have taken place and for folks not to immediately say ‘nothing else matters except making sure these kids are protected,’ that’s a problem.
It’s not unique to a college sports environment, we’ve seen problems in other institutions that are equally heartbreaking, not all of them involve children by the way. There have been problems obviously with respect to sexual abuse or assault directed against women where institutions sort of closed ranks instead of getting on top of it right away.
And that’s why I said I think all institutions, not just universities or sports programs, have to step back and take stock and make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect people who may be vulnerable in these circumstances.
But also just keep in mind what’s important: making sure that our excitement about a college sports program doesn’t get in the way of our basic human response when somebody’s being hurt. It’s been said that evil can thrive in the world just by good people standing by and doing nothing.
And all of us, I think, have occasion where we see something that’s wrong , you know we’ve got to make sure that we step up. That’s true in college athletics, that’s true in our government, that’s true everywhere.