Important message coming

In the world of television, 12 years is a very long period.

That’s the length of time the ABC show “What Would You Do?” has been on the air. It’s an impressive run, and something John Quinones, the show’s creator and host, attributes to its very simple concept.

“It forces viewers to ask themselves — and their children — what would we do –what should we do — if we are faced with that same injustice,” Quinones said about the hidden-camera, ethical dilemma newsmagazine.

If you are not familiar with the show, each segment features a different scenario in which actors create a situation in a public setting and, while cameras roll, let the people around them react. For example, past shows have featured a pharmacist who, instead of calling just a person’s name when their prescription has been filled, shouts, “Jane Smith, your herpes medication is ready.”

Or a mother who is buying pastries for her children and who tells her teenage daughter she can’t have a doughnut because of her weight.

Or a white man who berates his college-age daughter in a restaurant because she is dating a black man.

The reactions from the bystanders can make viewers uncomfortable. Some look the other way, but those who are not afraid to do or say the right thing will step forward. As Quinones writes in his book, “What Would You Do?: Words of Wisdom About Doing the Right Thing,” “There’s no greater feeling for me during our filming than when I come out of hiding and tell people, ‘This is all part of ‘What Would You Do?’ There’s a huge collective sigh of relief. Laughter, sometimes tears. And we’re able to congratulate, celebrate and relish people’s goodness.”

Quinones, who has more than 35 years of experience with ABC News, will discuss the show and share his message of believing in yourself, never giving up and always doing the right thing when he appears in Steubenville at 7:30 p.m. Thursday as part of the Herald-Star Speaker Series.

“The show reminds us that despite all of the progress we’ve made in this country with regards to racism, bullying, gay-bashing, etc., we still have work to do,” Quinones explained while preparing for his presentation at Catholic Central High School’s Lanman Hall.

“And, it remains a big hit because it inspires us with random acts for kindness. In every single one of our scenarios, someone eventually steps up and comes to the rescue of a stranger. WWYD restores our faith in humanity — at a time when we need it most.”

His message is important, and his presentation will offer a chance to reflect on our world — where politics has become a zero-sum game instead of a process to improve the lives of everyone, and just about all of us have forgotten that while our views might be staunchly blue or red, we face even bigger problems when we lose sight of the simple fact that society works best when we all strive to live in purple.

“I hope folks will walk away touched by the powerful reminder that just when we think we’re going to hell in a handbasket, there is a lot more good out there than bad, and that we must never judge strangers by the color of their skin, the religion they practice or the accents in their voices,” Quinones said.

Trinity Health System and Eastern Gateway Community College are the presenting sponsors of the series. Major sponsors include the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Catttell Cos. Inc., the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce and WTRF-TV, with special support provided by the Inn at Franciscan Square, Piergallini Catering, Newbrough Photo and Hertz-Thrifty Car Rental. For ticket information, contact Diana Brown at the Herald-Star at (740) 283-4711.

Area high school and college students will have the opportunity to see the presentation at no charge through Cattrell’s sponsorship. Quinones says that’s an important age group for his message.

“I hope the students, in particular, walk away inspired, energized and invigorated with the sense that anything is possible if only they believe in themselves and keep their eyes on the prize, whatever that might be,” he said.

“After all, if John Quinones, this kid who grew up in poverty, didn’t speak a word of English, shined shoes in bars and worked as a migrant worker can make it to network television, then anything is possible in this great country of ours.”

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