Robin Roberts at AARP in Miami Beach - May 2015

Robin Roberts at AARP in Miami Beach – May 2015

I had the privilege of hearing Robin Roberts keynote at the AARP event in Miami Beach last week. I’d seen her on the cover of their magazine recently, but since I’m not a TV watcher, had little idea of her immense influence as the co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America and as the most trusted woman on television (Readers Digest poll).

What makes her so trustworthy is that she has had the courage to break all the rules when she knew it was right to do so. She shared her breast cancer journey with viewers when she was diagnosed in 2007. And later with what resulted from the treatment of that cancer: a blood and bone marrow disease called myelodysplastic syndrome. She required a bone marrow transplant and was elated to discover (it happens only in 30% of cases) that her sister Sally Ann was a perfect match.

“Do you really want to do this?” Robin asked her.

“Not only do I want to do this,” she replied, “I was born to do this.”

And then she shared her memorable journey to find her mother, sister and nieces during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Communication lines were down, and she had no idea what she’d discover when she got to where her relatives lived. There was devastation all around, but the crew made its way down to Mississippi, and Robin knocked on the door. On some telepathic level her sister sensed that it was her on the other side of the door, and her mother, standing in the back of the house called out, “I knew you’d find us.” The mission to be sure her family was safe was more important than reporting about the storm, she shared unabashedly. Once she knew her family was safe and well, her report helped shed personal light on the catastrophic event for our whole nation. It wasn’t until Charlie Gibson asked her on the air how her family fared that she broke down and had what she called “the ugly cry” in front of the camera. Everyone rallied around her and the truth of that moment.

Throughout her talk her family and upbringing showed up strongly as her foundation. She talked about learning the 3 D’s from them: Discipline, Determination, and D’Lord.

When asked about her title as ‘most trusted woman on television,’ she slyly wondered out loud if some of her competition have friends outside the business. “My friends wouldn’t let me do some of the stuff they do on TV.”

A deeply spiritual woman, Robin’s advice is faith-based. “Put yourself in position,” she recommends. “Proximity is power.” After 15 years at ESPN, GMA came knocking.

She said, “God has three answers to your prayers–

  1. Yes!
  2. Not now..
  3. Have I got something for you!

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