Always do the right thing

In the first few pages of his book “What Would You Do?”, John Quinones offers a challenge to every reader:

“What if someone is being discriminated against because of his or her religion, skin color or accent?

“It happens every second of every day all over the world. And it affords us a great opportunity to take measure of true character,” Quinones writes.

“When you come face-to-face with abuse or injustice and that little voice in the back of your head says, ‘Do something,’ do you step in, or do you step away?”

It’s a question that Quinones asks often in his role as moderator of ABC’s “What Would You Do?” And, while it’s the premise of the hidden-camera, ethical-dilemma newsmagazine, it’s also a concept that was stressed by his mother when he was growing up in San Antonio and one that sticks with him to this day.

Quinones will share his thoughts about believing in yourself, never giving up and always doing the right thing at 7:30 p.m. April 19 in Lanman Hall at Catholic Central High School when he appears as part of the Herald-Star Speaker Series, presented by Trinity Health System and Eastern Gateway Community College. His topics are important, according to Jimmie Bruce.

“I think his message appeals to everybody,” said Bruce, president of the community college. “As we think about our society today and all of the controversies that go on, all the racial divides, all of the problems we seem to have, I think he speaks to everybody about how you as a human being, you as an individual, can make a difference. It’s about doing the right thing in the right situation.”

While the book offers a look at several of the scenarios that have been a part of the television show, it also provides a great deal of detail about his youth, the struggles he faced and his determination to take advantage of his strengths. He had the dream of becoming a journalist from a young age, and was not going to allow anything or anyone get in his way.

He writes that he knew he faced a tough challenge, because he saw few Hispanic faces on television, “hardly anyone who looked like me.” In middle school, his counselors tried to push him toward vocational courses and away from college.

“I endured the same kind of reactions and biases we often get when we stage scenarios on ‘WWYD:’ People judging each other by the color of their skin and the accent of their speech.”

A friend, Louie Rodriguez, suggested that he and Quinones transfer from the high school in their neighborhood to Brackenridge High, “a school that was much more integrated” and where the academic standards were higher. There, they both were accepted into the federal Upward Bound program, which provides advanced classes to inner-city children to improve their chances of getting into college.

It’s a program that some, Quinones writes, call a government handout, but for the friends, it was a lifesaver. While Quinones went on to earn degrees from St. Mary’s University and the Columbia School of Journalism, Rodriguez would become a successful businessman.

“It’s a fascinating story. We have that program here at the college,” Bruce said. “I think he’s a testament that if you give somebody a chance, you give somebody an opportunity and reach out and help them, you never know what they might be able to accomplish.

“Yeah, he has a great story.”

Reserved seat tickets for the presentation cost $20 in advance and are available at the Herald-Star or by visiting Copies of the book “What Would You Do?” are available for $10 each at the Herald-Star office. Attendees who have a copy of the book will have the opportunity to have it signed by Quinones after the presentation.

Special VIP packages –which include a meet-and-greet reception with Quinones prior to the presentation — and preferred seating packages — which include a copy of the book and the chance to be among the first to meet Quinones after the presentation — are available.

For information about purchasing tickets at any level, call Diana Brown at (740) 283-4711.

Cattrell Cos. Inc., the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, WTRF-TV and the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times are series sponsors, with special support coming from the Inn at Franciscan Square, Piergallini Catering, Catholic Central High School, Newbrough Photo and Hertz-Thrifty Car Rental.

Area junior high, high school and college students will have the opportunity to attend the presentation at no charge. Contact Brown for details.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)