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John Quiñones: Anything is Possible

Bloomsburg University students, faculty and townspeople packed the seats of Carver Hall last night to hear ABC’s John Quiñones speak during Black History Month at the university’s 26th annual commemorative celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Quiñones, a longtime anchor and reporter for ABC News programs such as Primetime, 20/20 and Good Morning America, is now most notably known for hosting “What Would You Do?,” a hidden-camera television show in which actors play out controversial scenarios in public settings in order to evoke reactions from bystanders. The event was made possible by Bloomsburg University’s Multicultural Center which is part of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion.

Master of Ceremonies Wayne Whitaker, who serves as BU’s Assistant Director of Diversity and Retention, kicked off the event with a brief history of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and achievements. Whitaker quoted Reverend King, saying “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” It was the first of many inspirational quotes by Reverend King that the audience would hear.

Quiñones’ presentation dealt with themes of adversity, discrimination, racism and immigration. “That’s why I’m here,” said Quiñones, “to remind you that anything is possible if we overcome adversity.”

Quiñones, the son of a janitor and housekeeper, grew up knowing he was poor. When he was 13, his father lost his job – prompting the Quiñones family to move to Michigan and pick cherries as migrant workers. From there, they continued to Swanton, Ohio, picking tomatoes. It was there that Quiñones’ father asked him if this was the kind of work he wanted to do the rest of his life. He knew the answer was no. He did not know that that conversation would go on to shape his future.

Quiñones had wanted to be a journalist since he was 12 years old. In 1979, at age 26, he earned his master’s degree from the Columbia University school of journalism. With that degree, he would go on to work for CBS in Chicago, and eventually ABC News.

“I call journalism the candle in the darkness,” Quiñones said.

During Quiñones’ presentation, he played one of his favorite moments from “What Would You Do?” in which bystanders defended an interracial couple. Many members of the audience were moved to tears during the heartfelt video.

He ended his presentation the same way it began – with this quote from the Reverend King: “We fear each other because we don’t know each other, and we don’t know each other because we do not communicate.”