Television host John Quiñones speaks at 26th annual Featured Speakers Series


John Quiñones, ABC News correspondent and host of “What Would You Do?,” speaks at the Kent State Stark campus as apart of the Featured Speakers Series on Thursday, April 20, 2017.

Kennedy Caldwell

John Quiñones, ABC News correspondent and television host of “What Would You Do?,” visited the Kent State Stark campus on Thursday for the 26th Annual Featured Speakers Series.

During his visit, he spoke with the audience about his hardships and successes in his life and career, and why it is important to do the right thing every day.

Kent State Stark’s website said that the Featured Speakers Series brings awareness about civil rights, politics, environmental activism, education, literature and arts by inviting experts in these areas to the events. Quiñones inspired attendees to follow their heart despite life’s challenges and setbacks.

Quiñones said he knew he wanted to be a reporter at a young age, but because of his ethnicity and Latino background, he was told journalism was not the right path for him.

He said he attributes much of his success today to his mother’s guidance and his own perseverance.

“Thank goodness for my mother. She was the one who in her broken English would say, ‘My son it doesn’t matter that you have to wear the same clothes to school everyday, at least we wash those clothes. It doesn’t matter that you have to take beans and tacos to school for lunch while all the other children take their fancy bologna sandwiches. What matters is what is in your brain and in your heart,’” Quiñones said.

Quiñones also shared stories about his first moments as a reporter, including an assignment where he used hidden cameras to document what it is like to cross the border as an “undocumented immigrant.”

In his disguise, he journeyed across the Rio Grande from Texas into Mexico then from Mexico back into Texas while getting it on tape.

After his entrance back into America, he continued to stay in character and got a job at a local Greek restaurant known for hiring “undocumented immigrants.” He and several other “undocumented” employees worked without pay and were threatened with deportation.

After witnessing this injustice, Quiñones revealed his identity and authorities were called. The owner of the restaurant was arrested, and employees were given temporary visas until they could become American citizens.

“The day after my story aired on the CBS station in Chicago, I knew that these were the kind of stories I was destined to tell,” Quiñones said. “Us journalists shine our lights on the darkest corners of the world to illuminate injustice, corruption and civil and human rights violations. When journalism is done right, those are the kinds of stories we should be telling.”

Senior psychology major Michelle Van Dyke said she comes to this event every year, and this was one of her favorite Featured Speakers Series yet.

“Although it was difficult to hear some of (the) things Mr. Quiñones spoke about, I think his message is so important for people of all ages, genders and races,” Van Dyke said. “We sometimes don’t realize how simple it is to do the right thing.”

Quiñones took time after the event during a meet and greet to speak with students, and he said he hopes his stories inspire them to follow their own passions in life.

Kennedy Caldwell is the commuters and apartment life reporter, contact her at [email protected].