John Quiñones’ 'words of wisdom' to students

PRLACC invites John Quinones, the host of "What would you do?" comes to UConn to speak about his life experiences from working as a child labor to being with ABC. (Eric Wang/The Daily Campus)

“Now available at Walgreens.” These were the first words John Quiñones, a seven-time Emmy Award winning journalist and the host of the renowned show, “What Would You Do” said to the world from a small country music station, with no knowledge of how big he would become, but with the knowledge that he would reach the dream of becoming a broadcast journalist.

On Sept. 19, John Quiñones visited UConn to speak about how he escaped a life of poverty and hardship and became the man he is today. The event was organized by The Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center (PRLACC) with help from The Student Union Board of Governors (SUBOG).

Quiñones talked about his book, “What Would You Do?: Words of Wisdom About Doing the Right Thing” in which he details his life growing up in San Antonio, Texas. He talks of the strength and wisdom of his mother who worked cleaning houses for the wealthy, but never lost a compassion for people; and his father, who after losing his job, decided to take the hard route that many were forced to take and became a migrant worker. They started by picking cherries, and were paid 75 cents for a bucket which took two hours to fill. They then followed the crops to Toledo, Ohio to pick tomatoes.

“I’ll never forget the time when, as we were picking these tomatoes on the cold, hard ground, my father looks up to me and says, ‘Mijo, do you want to do this for the rest of your life? Or do you want to get a college education?’” It was a no-brainer for Quiñones, and his journey officially began.

Quiñones talked about a government program called “Upward Bound” which he credits as the reason he was able to go to college.

“It’s why it makes me upset when I see things such as budget cuts to a great school like this (UConn)... because for me, that program was not ‘welfare,’ it was a lifeline,” he said.

Quiñones spent the night talking about his favorite moments of “What Would You Do?” and how it made him a better person.

“I’ve seen how important it is to do these little, tiny acts of kindness. We are all capable of making a difference,” He said.

He also said that now more than ever, is the time to speak up.

When asked about how Latinx people can embrace their culture, Quiñones said, “Don’t try to give that (culture) up. Because it’ll always be a part of you… a beautiful part of you.”

If it weren’t for his culture Quiñones said he wouldn’t be a reporter.

Quiñones promoted the powerful effect of a college education, and is an inspiration to the Latinx community as well as first generation students across the country. He shows that with persistence and by not being afraid to ask for what you want, dreams really can come true. It was with this persistence that he was able to ignore the discouragement from his teachers who told him to be more “realistic” about his aspirations because of the way he looked and the place he came from.


With the country divided now more than ever, John Quiñones reminded us to speak out if you see something, and to not judge a book by its cover. In his own words, “it’s not about what you look like, it’s about what's in your cerebro, in your brain, and about what’s in your corazón, in your heart.”


Maria Shah is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at maria.shah@uconn.edu.