I was incredibly blessed not to have to look outside my own home for my inspiration in life. Mom and Dad met at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and were the first in either of their families to attend college.
Mom put her career dreams on hold while she raised a family. Then she began her career in high gear. Among her high-profile endeavors, she chaired the Mississippi State Board of Education and served as president of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Commission.
Dad was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen, America’s first African-American military pilots. During his career in the Air Force, our family travelled all over the world and experienced many diverse cultures while stationed in other countries.
Mom and Dad always saw the good in everything and everyone, and they practiced this positive perspective while raising my brother, sisters, and me. We were taught responsibility. When the street lights came on, the Roberts kids went home. There was no “Oh, Mom, my watch stopped!” We ate dinner as a family by candlelight every night. We were in church every Sunday. We had a very strong spiritual foundation.
Mom and Dad believed that we could accomplish anything we set our minds to accomplish. Their positive message came across something like this: “Want to be a physicist on the weekend and split the atom Monday through Friday? Fine, you can do it!”
I Can Do It
I’m most grateful for growing up in a household like that and also for being encouraged to play sports as a young girl. I was fortunate to benefit from the wonderful Title IX legislation, which came along at a perfect time for me and other girls. It created opportunities and made college scholarships available to us.
My involvement in sports shaped me, and I always encourage those who are raising young girls to allow them to play sports. Because of the lessons I learned, I firmly believe I would have achieved a level of success in anything I had pursued, had it been education, medicine, or sanitation. In sports I learned how to set goals and make sacrifices as a member of a team—all those things that, for generations before, boys had learned that had helped them go on to be successful men in life.
But most important, sports were just plain fun. I was fascinated by how fast I could run and how high I could jump. When it came time for me to choose a career, I chose sports broadcasting, a job in which I could focus on something I loved and felt passionate about.
Although at that time there weren’t many women role models in sports broadcasting, I believed I could do it. My parents had instilled in me the belief that whatever I wanted to achieve, I could. Today people ask me “Robin, you’ve been a woman sportscaster at the highest level of ESPN and are now a co-anchor with Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America. What is the key to your success?” My answer is “being a child of Lawrence and Lucimarian Roberts. It’s as simple as that.” They were examples of faith and spirituality that became the very foundation of my life.
Spiritual Coat of Armor
My mother helped me when I moved from my parent’s home in Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, for my first job away from home. When she saw that I had to get up very early in the morning and leave from a very dark apartment complex, she said, “Honey, I want you to say the ‘Prayer for Protection’ every morning before you open that door and go out into the world.” My mom had first read this prayer in Daily Word, and I can’t remember a time when this little magazine and the prayer were not a vital presence in our home.
Prayer for Protection
by James Dillet Freeman
The light of God surrounds me;
The love of God enfolds me;
The power of God protects me;
The presence of God watches over me.
Wherever I am, God is!
Every morning since that time, no matter where I am in the world, I say this prayer before I walk out the door. It’s my spiritual coat of armor. I wouldn’t know how to begin my day without it. It’s as essential to me as breathing.
Several years ago, we were filming a segment for Good Morning America showing how we began our day. A camera crew came very early to my apartment, and I went out to my balcony and did what I do each morning around 4 a.m. I said the “Prayer for Protection.” Honestly, I never thought it would see the light of day. I expected to hear “It’s not something we can show on national TV.”
The response from the producers, however, was just the opposite. They liked it. They saw it was truly me. I wasn’t doing something to get attention or to make me look good.
I was being authentic. We went on the air with the segment and were flooded with requests for copies of the prayer. That was about five years ago; and since then, rarely a week goes by that someone doesn’t ask me for a copy of the prayer.
The response to the GMA segment was beautiful, and I feel it really showed how people hunger for the Lord and for spiritual substance. I love it when somebody in the studio audience looks me in the eye and silently mouths the words “Bless you.” I say “Bless you” right back. It’s a way of uplifting one another, of communicating “I feel your spirit blessing me and I thank you.”
A Life Built on Faith
We may all have feelings of being down at times, but we must never give up on ourselves or feel our situation is hopeless. My mother is an incredibly positive, spiritual woman. Yet when I called her recently, I could tell that she was down. Dad had passed away just over two years ago, and she was having a rough morning. She had read something in the paper about someone Dad had known and thought: I’ve got to let Larry see this. Her next thought brought her down: Oh, that’s right. He’s no longer with me.
It doesn’t matter how strong we are. We all have down times in life. But when we hold onto hope and put ourselves in a position for good things to happen to us, we prepare ourselves for the good that’s coming our way.
I believe in hope and prayer. And most important, I believe in strengthening my foundation of faith, because every day of my life is built upon that foundation.