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MLK Day Convocation Asks ‘What Would You Do?’

Thursday, December 21, 2017
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Education allowed John Quiñones to escape his childhood struggles in Texas, graduate from college, and become an award-winning broadcast journalist and host of ABC’s “What Would You Do?” television series.

When you think no one is watching, what would you do if a thief steals an elderly woman’s purse, an onlooker was harassing a parent with a child of a different race, or if a veteran couldn’t afford groceries at a checkout line?

Those are among the everyday scenarios that veteran journalist John Quiñones captures using hidden cameras for the popular ABC television series, “What Would You Do?”

Lessons learned from the moral and ethical dilemmas from such split-second and often surprising decisions will be featured in this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day Convocation on Jan. 15 as part of the institute’s 2017-18 Diversity Speaker Series. The event starting at 11 a.m. in the Hatfield Hall theater is free and open to the public, but prior reservations are required. Register here. 

Quiñones states that although only about 20 percent of “What Would You Do?” shows pose dilemmas about race, ethnicity, religion or discrimination, those episodes tend to draw out the most emotional responses. The show is one of highest-rated newsmagazine franchises on network television.

“John Quiñones highlights people following Martin Luther King Jr.’s life lessons by rising up to help others in need when they think no one is watching,” said Janice Fenn, director of Rose-Hulman’s Center for Diversity, which organizes the Diversity Speaker Series. “We can learn a lot about ourselves and our society from these moral and ethical situations. What would we do? We don’t know until we’re put in those situations.”

Fenn notes that a group of students from Terre Haute’s Sarah Scott Middle School will be attending the convocation, and have a special opportunity to meet the journalist, author and motivational speaker.

Quiñones has helped tell inspiring stories of people overcoming obstacles in hopes of capturing the Latino American Dream. It’s a journey that he knows well, as Quiñones’ rags-to-riches life story is based on “never taking no for an answer” and the life-changing power of education.

Born in a Spanish-speaking neighborhood of San Antonio that was rife with gangs and drugs, Quiñones joined family members in spending summers as a migrant farm worker. Education was a way out. He learned English at age six and set a course to becoming a high school graduate, assisted by an Upward Bound program at St. Mary’s University in Texas.

Later, as a St. Mary’s student, Quiñones began working as a reporter and announcer at a local radio station, and eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in speech communications. He also has a master’s degree from the prestigious Columbia University School of Journalism. Quiñones’ big career break came as a reporter/anchor at Chicago’s WBBW-TV, eventually becoming a national news correspondent for ABC News. His stories have been featured on the network’s "Primetime Live," "Burning Questions" and "20/20" shows during the past 35 years.

Quiñones’ national Emmy Award-winning stories have included a Latin Beat special that focused on the wave of Latin talent sweeping the United States and its impact on the nation. He also followed a group of would-be Mexican immigrants crossing into the U.S., and traveled to Israel for a report about suicide bombers. He has been honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Nationa