Everyone deserves their own redemption story | John Tarantino

Special Feature

Have you ever felt like you are beyond redemption? 

No matter what you have faced in life, there is always hope. Youcan overcome your obstacles and move forward to create a profound legacy.

That is the message at the center of John Tarantino’s deeply moving TEDx Talk, “Redemption Stories.”

John is well respected as one of the top attorneys in the US, named as a leading legal mind by Best Lawyers of America, Chambers USA, Benchmark, and Lawdragon.

Since it was posted on July 17, his TEDx talk has become one of the most watched of the year and is fast approaching 15 million views on YouTube. 

In his TEDx talk, John tells the story of two men – Ralph and John. Ralph was a successful businessman, but after using a racial slur in the boardroom in 2007, he hit front-page news, and his reputation was left in tatters. 

Despite this, Ralph decided to prove his integrity and character through actions, rather than words. He established educational reading programs for inner-city students from communities of color, which have raised over $2.2 million in scholarships. Herepaired his reputation and made an enormous difference in the lives of underserved communities in the process. 

Since Ralph’s passing, his wife Barbara has established the Papitto Opportunity Connection (POC), a private family foundation that invests in those who are committed to creating systemic change.

The TEDx talk then explores a second story about the other man – John. John worked closely with Ralph for many years and serves as a Managing Trustee to the POC foundation. 

In the middle of this incredible work, he experienced a personal tragedy that changed everything. His beloved wife Pat was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer, which has a 0% survival rate. 

Despite living in the most challenging circumstances, John and Pat decided to use their experience to make a difference for others. They sold their family home and, combined with the cash proceeds from Pat’s life insurance policies, they donated every cent to cancer research.

At the end of the talk, John stunned the audience by revealing that he was the John in the stories and that he had been talking about his dear friend Ralph and beloved wife Pat all along. 

John knew that his TEDx talk had an important message, and he started to feel the impact of it before he ever hit the stage. 

As part of the preparation to deliver a TEDx talk, you need to attend a practice session and collect feedback from the organizers. I attended one with two other speakers, who stayed to watch my talk. After I finished, they were both crying and hugged me, telling me how much it had moved them.” 

Despite this reaction, the organizer told John that he should reconsider giving the talk because it was so personal and vulnerable. But John stood his ground because he knew his experiences would help others – and later, the organizer got in touch to congratulate John and admit he had been wrong!

As the talk continues to gain traction around the world, so doesthe number of people reaching out to John to tell him their own stories:

“I get positive comments from people every day, sharing their own redemption story or their hope for one. It is remarkable how sharing and vulnerable people are. I’ve heard from people who have lost spouses, parents, children, friendships, businesses…watching the talk has given them hope and the belief that they can live a happy life again.”

John feels immense gratitude for the millions of views his talk has received, but his focus continues to be on the work he is doing and sharing the message of his TEDx talk far and wide:

If I only got one view and had a real impact on just one life, then that would be enough for me. To be able to do more than that is an unbelievable bonus.”

Since delivering his TEDx talk, John’s foundations have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations to the foundation he has established in Pat’s honor – The John and Pat Tarantino Charitable (JPT) Foundation. 

The JPT Foundation has two separate funds. One goes towards research and funding care for patients who are experiencing all cancers. The second specifically works towards research in the treatment of pancreatic cancer and has recently funded its first published peer-reviewed paper on advances in treatment options. 

John is also CEO of Iylon Precision Oncology LLC, an organization at the cutting edge of precision oncology. Through the analysis of genomic, pathology, laboratory, and radiology reports, a group of experts in the field are providing treatment recommendations to oncologists that are individual to each cancer patient, to provide better outcomes.

More than anything, John wants to continue to honor the legacy of both Ralph and Pat. 

“I became Ralph’s lawyer in 1982 after I won a case against him! Ralph could be difficult – he must have fired and re-hired me at least ten times when he disagreed with me. But he always listened and did the right thing. I wanted to pay tribute to him in my TEDx talk because I know first-hand that one mistake did not define my friend’s true character, and his actions prove that redemption is always possible.”

The fact that Pat spent her final days thinking about how her death could have a positive impact on the lives of others was a testament to the wife, mother, and grandmother that John got to spend 45 years of his life with:

“Pat and I met when we were interviewing as the final two candidates for a job, just after graduating college. I thought she was beautiful, so we made a deal that whoever got the job had to take the other to dinner. I ended up getting the position, so I called her, and we went to dinner soon after. We married on the one-year anniversary of our first meeting, after I proposed on Thanksgiving. What more could I have been thankful for?”

No matter what we are going through, John’s stories of Ralph and Pat stand as proof to us all that if you lead with hope, trust, and love, redemption and an incredible legacy are always possible. 

You can watch John’s TEDx Talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poRyLHqvgrY

If you are interested in donating to one of the foundations or would like to speak with John about future speaking opportunities to raise awareness of his work and his message,you can get in touch via https://go.brown.edu/TarantinoPancreaticCancerResearchFund 


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