Hispanic Heritage Month Brings John Quinones

On Thursday, September 29, months of organization and nego­tiation paid off as John Quinones stepped up to the podium for this year’s Hispanic Heritage month key­note speech. The seven-time Emmy Award-winning co-anchor of ABC’s Primetime is perhaps best known for his show What Would You Do?

The evening of events, which consisted of Quinones’s lecture in Love Auditorium followed by the Hispanic Heritage Month din­ner in the African, Latin, Asian & Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center, was organized by the Latin American Student Organization (LASO). The event organizers also received help from the African and Latin Studies De­partment (ALST) and the Kulla Family Fund.

Senior Javier Calvo, co-presi­dent of LASO, was happy to see about 120 faces at the lecture. He also seemed happy with the overall flow of the event.

“I think it all went fantastic. Ev­erything went according to plan, on schedule, with no unforeseen circumstances. And I think the talk itself went really well, the crowd was really diverse, which I was re­ally happy to see; it wasn’t only LASO members,” Calvo said.

Besides his impressive resume, another draw that prompted LASO to pursue Quinones was his con­nection to Colgate. Caroline Keat­ing, a professor in the psychology department, has been consulting with him for his show What Would You Do? since its inception about six years ago and has occasion­ally appeared as an “expert.” She has also appeared with Quinones on The Oprah Winfrey Show when Oprah featured the series.

“I would describe John Quinones as a wonderful choice of speakers in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month,” Keating said. “John has quite a story. He comes from an old Texas family with quite humble be­ginnings. He is a blend of rich cul­tural heritages. He is warm and char­ismatic. He is talented and smart. It has been a pleasure to work with him – what can I say – I’m a fan!”

In his talk, Quinones mixed personal stories with inspiration­al rhetoric as he worked his way through a lifetime of surmounted obstacles and adventures. At one point, he shared his two key lessons with the crowd: work to get your foot in the door, and never give up even if people are telling you to.

“People see me on prime time and think, ‘that guy has it made,'” Quinones said. “But they don’t know the long and hard journey that it took to get there.”

Later, he explained what mo­tivated him to continue pursuing work in the medium, despite the challenges he faced.

“The power of this wonderful medium is its way of shining a light on the darkest corners of a room and giving a voice to people who don’t have any,” Quinones said.

“The message of his talk was something that everyone could re­late to, and he was approachable in every way,” Calvo said.

“Everyone was laughing…I think everyone left hav­ing gotten something out of it. As an international student from El Salvador, I was happy to hear him talking about traveling to different countries in Latin America as a journalist. I was happy to hear that he spoke about these countries that are sometimes not included when we think about what ‘Latino’ is.”

Attending students reacted positively.

“I was excited about the choice to bring John Quinones to Colgate because I have watched his show What Would You Do?,” junior Michelle Moon said. “He even showed one of my favorite clips about immigration in Arizona during the lec­ture. He is a very charismatic speaker and I was glad to have the opportunity to speak with him after the lecture.”

Some students also found that they really con­nected with his story, demonstrating the merits of his deeply personal account.

“I felt like I could relate to Mr. Quinones in every form possible,” sophomore Manuel Here­dia-Santoyo said. “Throughout his entire talk, I found myself growing a smile that extended from one ear to the other…I came from a neighborhood much like the one he described and had to work extremely hard to get to where I am today just as he did. I can recall telling a friend that the only difference that I can see between him and me was that as child, he picked tomatoes in Texas and I was dealing with grapes in California.”

“As a Latina, part of the minority, there is no doubt that I have gone through similar experienc­es,” sophomore Genesis Cedeno said. “I know what it feels like to have people look down upon you and not believe in you. I also know what it feels like to prove them wrong and strive for success. I think that a lot of Latinos have that in the back of their minds, and this should only serve to make them stronger. We’ve got to do it for our mothers, our siblings, our loved ones and for our race in general.”

The fact that students were still approaching Quinones for pictures, autographs and conversa­tion throughout the post-lecture dinner at ALANA is a testimony to the impact he had on his audience.

Contact Rebekah Ward at [email protected].