Quiñones urges UVU grads to not give up on dreams

John Quiñones speaks to the class of 2016 during the 75th Commencement ceremony on Thursday night. (Jay Drowns/UVU Marketing)

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OREM —  For 25 years, John Quiñones has been living his dream as a reporter for ABC News. On Thursday night in the UCCU Center, Quiñones spoke to an audience that hopes to follow in his footsteps and live their dreams. Quiñones was the commencement speaker for UVU’s historic 75th Commencement ceremony where he spoke to the class of 2016 about not giving up on their dreams.

“If you had told me — when I was your age, so many years ago, that someday, I would be giving a commencement address at this amazing institution – I would have laughed you out of the building,” Quiñones said.

He has received Emmy Awards for his work on Primetime LiveBurning Questions, and 20/20. He is currently the host of What Would you Do?, which is one of the highest-rated newsmagazine franchises in recent years.

But Quiñones didn’t want the spotlight to be about him. It was about the 5,409 students who, according to Quiñones, accomplished something amazing.

“And, what would John Quiñones do?,” he asked. “I would congratulate each and every one of you – and your families – on this momentous occasion.”

UVU basketball players Alex Carr and Darrious Hamilton looking good as they march into the UCCU Center as graduates of the class of 2016. (August Miller/UVU Marketing)
UVU basketball players Alex Carr and Darrious Hamilton looking good as they march into the UCCU Center as graduates of the class of 2016. (August Miller/UVU Marketing)

Born into poverty in the Barrio – the poor neighborhoods – of San Antonio, Quiñones didn’t know much about life but work. He worked as a shoe shiner, in cherry orchards and as a tomato harvester. But at the age of 13, after his father asked him at six in the morning in the middle of a tomato patch if he wanted to go to college, Quiñones made the decision right there that he would work to become a television reporter.

“It was a no-brainer,” Quiñones said. “Of course, I wanted to go to college. Ever since I was a little boy, I had the dream of someday being a TV reporter.”

“No one believed in me – except my dear mother, Maria. She was the one who kept pushing me, encouraging me to dream big dreams and, not to give up on them.”

Quiñones didn’t give up on his dreams. Instead, he worked harder kept pushing despite things getting more difficult along the way. He was awarded a fellowship to Columbia University School of Journalism and upon graduating, obtained his first job as a local reporter in Chicago. It was through this process that Quiñones learned some very valuable lessons that he shared with the graduates of the class of 2016.

“First, you must take advantage of every single thing that makes you who you are…that makes you unique. So much of success – so much of ‘making it’ – is a state of mind. Always keep reminding yourself that you are worthy. You are unique. There is no one else in this world quite like you…Yes, you should persevere and work hard – because in the end you will be better for it…envision yourself as a success. Cleanse your brain of any and all negative influences. When people criticize you because you don’t look or sound a certain way, or, because you don’t practice a lifestyle or religion that they do…ignore them. It’s not worth the time and energy.”

Quiñones also wanted students to pursue something they have a passion in, not just a job.

“Make sure it’s not just a job but rather, a career for which you have a real passion,” Quiñones said. “Chase that dream because there’s a fire in your belly that burns for it. Choose a profession that you would work at — even if you weren’t getting paid for it. That will bring you true happiness and satisfaction.”

Keynote speaker, John Quiñones urges the 2016 UVU graduates to never give up on their dreams. (August Miller/UVU Marketing)
Keynote speaker, John Quiñones urges the 2016 UVU graduates to never give up on their dreams. (August Miller/UVU Marketing)

At the end of his commencement speech, Quiñones made one last plea to the the students in front of him who are about to go out into the world in pursuit of their careers.

“I urge you, the class of 2016 to never, ever ‘remain silent’ about anything that matters. Because that would mean you lose one of humanity’s greatest attributes: our sense of compassion…remember this Mexican kid from San Antonio who spoke no English, shined shoes on the streets of the Barrio and had to pick cherries and tomatoes with his family as a migrant farm worker…if that little Latino kid could make his wildest dreams come true…then anything, anything is possible in this great country of ours. Congratulations to all of you. Now go out there…and conquer the world!”

Following his commencement speech, Quiñones, along with Christine M. Durham, Todd R. Pedersen and John L. Valentine received honorary doctorate degrees.

Quiñones received an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Durham received an honorary doctorate of law. Pedersen received an honorary doctorate of business. And Valentine received an honorary doctorate of public service.

Durham has served on the Utah Supreme Court since 1982 and the Prelaw Club at UVU bears her name. Along with that, the Christine M. Durham Public Service Award at UVU recognizes individuals whose commitment to public service makes a significant impact.

It is a time of celebration for two UVU students who accomplished their goals. (Kim Raff)
Two UVU students jump for joy as they realized they are not officially graduated and moving on to bigger things in life. (Kim Raff)

Pedersen is the founder of Vivint and was instrumental in establishing a professional sales program at UVU. He also helped establish the Vivint SMART-Lab which boasts cutting-edge technology and tools for marketing, sales research and training.

Valentine played a key role in the Legislature in UVU’s transition to university status. He has led the charge on many fronts to expand UVU’s infrastructure to meet the demands of its ever-growing student population.

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