News Column

Robin Roberts comes to Reading with a message: 'Dream big, focus small'

May 9, 2014

By David Mekeel, Reading Eagle, Pa.

May 09--Early Thursday morning she was chatting with Hillary Clinton and Hugh Jackman.

Thursday night, however, she belonged to Reading.

Engaging, energetic, funny and inspirational, Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC's Good Morning America, took to the stage of the Santander Performing Arts Center as the keynote speaker of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce and Industry's 101st annual dinner.

A sportscaster, a newswoman and a cancer survivor, Roberts beamed with hopeful joy as she spoke of her life. The struggles, the successes, the dreams and, most importantly, the hard work.

Her message was clear and concise, in order to succeed you must put yourself in position for success.

"Dream big, focus small," she said. "That dream may not come true tomorrow, but what you can do is the small things everyday to position yourself to make it come true."

Robinson grew up on the Mississippi coast, and developed a love for sports at an early age.

"I loved to play any sport they'd let a little girl play," she said.

She wanted to play sports professionally, but as she grew up realized that wasn't likely. Instead, she decided, she'd do the next best thing -- become a sports reporter.

But in order to do that, she'd need to go to college. And in order to go to college, she'd need to earn a scholarship.

So, in order to make her dream come true, she did the little things. She spent hours upon hours sweating in a small, steamy gym playing basketball, practicing her shot and developing her handle.

"I was putting myself in position," she refrained.

Her hard work paid off, earning her a scholarship to Southern Louisiana University, where she starred on the basketball team. She also developed her skills as a journalist.

To further hone her skills, she decided to check out a local radio station. They agreed to let her do a sports show, if she agreed to spin country and western records as the weekend disk jockey.

Somewhat reluctantly, she agreed.

"You need to be willing to make the needed sacrifices," she said.

After graduating college, Roberts found herself with all sorts of offers for full-time positions reporting the news. But she wanted to do sports, and took the single offer she got in that field -- a part-time gig.

Finding success, she moved from one station to the next, each stop a bigger and bigger market.

In 1987 she got a call from ESPN offering a job at the worldwide leader in sports. She turned it down.

"I just knew I wasn't ready," she explained. "And that takes guts to know your strengths and weaknesses."

And when she got a second offer from ESPN a few years later, she was ready.

Roberts worked at ESPN for 15 years. Near the end, she admitted, she began to get complacent.

"I was limiting myself," she said.

So she decided to take a big leap, taking a job reporting for Good Morning America. She eventually became co-anchor, a positions she still holds today.

"Why not take a chance and step out of your comfort zone?" she said.

In 2007, Roberts was forced to again face a frightening jump out of her comfort zone when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In a very public battle, she went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

But a few years later, those treatments turned on her. She was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder -- caused by her cancer treatment -- and needed to undergo a bone marrow transplant.

Through it all, she remained vibrant and positive. In her mind, she said, every challenge is simply an opportunity to do something great.

She chose to not be sad or mad or depressed. She chose to be happy.

"Optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use," she said. "I choose to be happy, I choose to be optimistic.

"You have to make that decision that you're going to rise up from that," she added later. "I choose to focus on the fight, not the fright."

Contact David Mekeel: 610-371-5014 or

-- -- -- -- -- --

Robin Roberts

--Born Nov. 23, 1960 in Pass Christian, Miss.

--Earned a degree in communications from Southern Louisiana University, where she was a star basketball player.

--Immediately after graduating she began her career as a sports reporter and anchor for a local television station in Mississippi.

--In 1989, she was hired by ESPN to host its new program, "SportsCenter."

--Shortly after starting at ESPN, she began making appearances as a guest reporter on "Good Morning America."

--Was hired as the full-time anchor of "Good Morning America" in 2005, replacing Diane Sawyer.

--In 2007 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing surgery in 2008 followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

--In 2012 a diagnosis of a bone marrow disease and a subsequent bone marrow transplant forced her to take a leave of absence from "Good Morning America."

--She returned to "Good Morning America" on Feb. 20, 2013, and went back to full time work in September 2013.

--Honored with Arthur Ashe Courage Award in July 2013.

--In January 2014 she publicly came out as gay on "Good Morning America."



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