Social justice resonates with Twomey Center’s Ted Quant
12th March 2012 · 0 Comments
By Travis M. Andrews
Theodore Quant doesn’t let himself off the hook easily.
The director for Loyola’s Twomey Center for Peace through Justice said he started working for social justice because from an early age, he had not just an affinity, but a sort of mission to do good.
“I guess it’s rooted in childhood and growing up and what your parents and early experience were,” Quant said.
When he was growing up, he met a priest who would greet him with a rather odd question: “Have you proven your existence today?”
He’d respond the way most probably would, a confused “I’m right here …”
The priest would reply that yes, he was there, but so was a dog or a rock or a frog, and he was none of those things. So had he proven his existence as a human being?
“The priest would say, ‘The only creatures God made with free will are human beings. They are the only ones who can choose between good and evil … you’re the only creature who can make a choice. So my question is what choice did you make today, because only when you are choosing are you truly human,’” Quant said.
Ever since then, Quant hasn’t been the same.
“That became the foundation for the idea that every moment you make a choice you have an opportunity to do good, to make the world a better place,” he said.
So he started following this philosophy immediately.
As a child, his mother would give him 50 cents to go to the pictures. He said he’d spend about a quarter on the movie, a dime on popcorn and a nickel for soda. That left two nickels, one for the bus and one he’d give to the poor house, every time.
“To whom much is given, much should be given back,” Quant said.
Now, years later, he’s spent his life working for the cause of social justice, and he feels it to be his responsibility to do everything possible. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Cal State in Los Angeles, he began working in the social justice realm.
Take, for example, his work at getting conflict-resolution programs into schools, starting with the now-defunct Peters Elementary at Tulane and Broad. When he read the news, every day, about children killing each other, he knew he had to do something. He just didn’t know what, so he gave himself a daily reminder to consider it.
“When I first started noticing, just like today, all these kids getting killed, I started putting their pictures up on my wall across from my desk,” he said. “I wasn’t doing anything about it, and I knew I should be. I put those pictures on the wall across from me so I’d have to face those kids every day until I figured out what to do.”
Eventually, he did figure out what to do: Help institute conflict-resolution programs in schools to teach children that there better ways than violence to settled differences.
An examination of Quant’s resumé reveals many social justice victories — he helped organize the Louisiana Survival Coalition in the 80s, was an organizer for an Equal Rights Congress in the South in the 70s, focusing on stopping social issues like police brutality, and the list goes on — and he said he’s learned a lot from the priests he’s met along the way.
Father Louis J. Twomey, who founded the institute Quant directs but under the title Institute of Industrial Relations, had a particular effect on him. Twomey held illegal classes at Loyola University, which would give many cause to pause and maybe consider this not the best role model. But the classes were illegal because they were integrated. Twomey led social justice causes, even when the consequences could have been grave.
He did good. Every day.
And that’s what Quant, modest as he may be, strives to do himself. Be able to answer a simple question posed to him so long ago, one that he feels needs to be answered every day: Have you proven your existence today?
**Editor’s Note: Loyola University plans to host a lecture series on Tuesday, April 10 as part of its centennial events. The series, Leading the Way: Loyola and the Desegregation of New Orleans, will focus on the institution’s efforts to combat racial segregation the 1960s South. For more information about the lecture and the other centennial events, visit calendar.loyno.edu/dept/centennial/upcoming.
This article was originally published in the March 12, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper