John Quiñones, ABC News correspondent and host of “What Would You Do?,” stressed to students the importance of race equality and journalism and shared anecdotes during his visit to APSU on Wednesday, April 1.
Quiñones, who has worked for ABC News since 1982, was the keynote speaker for the Department of Student Affairs’ Unity Celebration held in Clement Auditorium.
He is originally from San Antonio, Texas, and though his family has lived there for seven generations, Quiñones said he is still seen as an immigrant.
“We were always there,” Quiñones said. “I didn’t cross the border; the border crossed me.”
Quiñones said all he ever wanted to do as a kid was be a reporter, but was hindered by the preconceived notion his college counselors had on his nationality.
“They saw me as just another Mexican kid … with no chance of making it in college. They judged me by the color of my skin and the accent in my voice,” Quiñones said.
Quiñones was encouraged by his high school counselors to take courses in woodshop, metalshop and automechanics instead of courses that would prepare him for college.
Quiñones said he was thankful for his mother, who encouraged him. “Otherwise, the message from society was that I’d never make it,” Quiñones said.
After a good deal of work, which included becoming the director of editorials at his high school newspaper and working three separate jobs at St. Mary’s University while he was in college, Quiñones became a television reporter in Chicago for a CBS affiliate.
After one of his first investigative journalism pieces, which resulted in the arrest of a restaurant owner who refused to pay his employees, Quiñones said, “It’s then that I realized [the journalist] is the person with a flashlight or candle who can … shine it on the darkest corners of a pitch black room, to illuminate injustice, to illuminate corruption, to illuminate human rights violation.”
During the Q&A session following Quiñones’ keynote address, a student asked what Quiñones’ thoughts were on what he referred to as “social media activism” where people learn about a particular topic but they do not necessarily do anything to fix the issue.
“I think the more information you get out the better, you just have to consider the source,” Quiñones said. “Make sure you know when someone is giving you their opinion.”
Another student asked what advice Quiñones had for an aspiring news correspondent.
“Get an internship … at a newspaper, at a radio station,” Quiñones said. “Work your way up. You won’t get hired at ABC News tomorrow.”
Quiñones was the 13th speaker of the annual Unity Celebration, with past speakers including Soledad O’Brien, who spoke in 2014, Robert F. Kennedy, who spoke in 2011, and Giancarlo Esposito, who spoke in 2004.
Aproximately 330 students attended Quiñones’ address, according to Student Life and Engagement Director Victor Felts. TAS