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In praise of a force for peace in Johnny Montalvo
For some time now, John Quinones has been running a Friday evening ABC-TV show asking "What Would You Do?" in a variety of social scenarios that test people's tolerance, morals and integrity. Actors are used to set up scenarios of situational ethics to an unsuspecting public (being videotaped) to test responses to such things as bullying, racism, and prejudice.

Johnny Montalvo, a youth pastor living in Ceres, would have made Quinones proud had his actions of last February on Agresti Lane been part of his TV show. However, Jennifer Zuniga was not acting when she was coaching her teenage son how to clobber another student in her front yard. You know the story by now. A video of the fight lands on youtube, Mrs. Zuniga is arrested and a bystander is hailed for jumping in. Montalvo drives by and sees the fight - with the mother egging it on - and jumps into action. He honks, stops his car and strides onto the lawn to confront the mother and then the boys. When it's all said and done, his words of peace sink in. This gentle 6-foot-5 giant makes peace. The two no longer fight.

I think I can safely say that we all applaud Montalvo's actions. But I am actually going to defer this column over to the words that Montalvo - a man whom police Chief Art deWerk said "saw what was wrong and did what was right" - spoke on Monday evening when the Ceres City Council recognized him.

Here's what he had to say:

"A lot of people have asked me why did you do this? First of all, I want to give thanks to Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, because maybe 20 years ago I wouldn't have done that. I may have been on the other side. I still don't see myself today as having done something special. I did something that ... I felt was the right thing to do as a human being regardless what I might have been told or what people think.

"Also as a reverend, as a minister, I'm kind of humbled by all the recognition that's been taking place. But again, I thank God because I know if it hadn't been for him...

"I was just talking to Detective Venn and just kind of reminiscing about our upbringing. I know that if it hadn't been for a decision I made over 20 years ago in a hospital ... my life was tore up because of drugs, a similar lifestyle that I see being displayed out of the streets with no direction, no purpose in my life but right there I made a decision that I wanted to serve something greater, a greater purpose. Right there I also made a commitment that I was going to help people, reach out to people who were in the same situation I was in or worse. And because of that I feel like I didn't do anything special; I did what I was supposed to do. One of the reporters asked me, 'If it had been your son would you have wanted someone to have stepped in?' and I said, 'Sure I would have.'

"I just also want to just take this opportunity to say that whatever opportunity that we have, reach out to our young people. As we look out into our society, a lot of the leadership and role models that they're following are not the leadership and role model that I feel should be followed. I work with a lot of young teenagers, a lot of young gang members living a lifestyle that, maybe for some people they wonder why, but they're looking for a purpose to live for and the sad thing is that a lot of times they're finding it in the wrong place.

"I believe with adults, first of all, those who have the power to give something positive to a young person, one person at a time, I believe we can have an impact, we can make a difference. It's taking place. I am proud to say that I belong to Victory Outreach, a front-line ministry. We believe in going out into the streets where the troubled areas are at and I will continue to go there because I believe that's the mission that I have for the next - if the Lord allows me - for the next 40 or 50 years.

"Again, I just want to thank the Lord. And also just say that as a community coming together putting our thoughts, our ideas together, the resources that we all have together we can make a difference."

Can I hear an amen?

How do you feel? Let Jeff by e-mailing him at