Journalist Robin Roberts Talks Strength of Women … and Friendly Competition with Michelle Obama

At NAPW conference, breast cancer survivor inspires with career of triumphs

Robin Roberts (Image: File)

Robin Roberts (Image: File)

Robin Roberts has a phenomenal story of triumph and strength, having defeated the odds as a leading female sportscaster at ESPN and winning audiences as co-anchor on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Add to that being a two-time survivor of breast cancer—who documented her story publicly to inspire millions across the globe—and you’ve got a woman who is not only determined to survive, but built to thrive and conquer.

Honored with the Icon Award at the National Association of Professional Women‘s Networking Conference, Roberts sat down with Chief Development Officer Star Jones to have a candid one-on-one. The author of Everybody’s Got Something (Grand Central Publishing) inspired a packed room of professional women from across the country. Check out a few career-inspiring takeaways:

On dealing with challenges or woes: “The challenge is to understand what it is and how to get through it,” Roberts said. “I have found faith, family and friends to be a cornerstone. When you think of something as a burden, and you think it’s weighing you down, why not think of it as wings that [allow you to] soar to heights you’ve never dreamed of before? I have done that, and look where I am today.  … It takes courage to trust and believe that the best is yet to come.”

On what motivates her: I draw strength from being around people. I enjoy the interaction… when I get to go out to book signings… when I get to connect with people… hearing stories. Also, hearing Motown. [Laughs]. You can hear a song that brings you back to a certain time and a good mood.

On her love for female athleticism and tennis: Serena Williams—she is fierce! Tennis is my first love, and I wanted to be a professional tennis player, but there’s something called… ability. [Laughs.] Everyone thought that because I was tall and black, it had to be basketball, but I really wanted to play tennis back in the day. I actually went to school on a tennis scholarship but decided to play basketball instead.

On her relationship with Michelle Obama: I always enjoy Michelle Obama… spending time with her and interviewing her. … We’re very competitive. … The first time I interviewed her, when her husband was on the campaign trail the first time, I was wearing heels. She wasn’t, and she didn’t like that because I was a little taller. So when we went out, our offices called each other, like, OK how high are the heels? [Laughs]

On her favorite spare-time activity: I enjoy quiet time. I know people call it meditation. It’s something my family has done for generations. … I like to be quiet and be still. I’m not one of those people who feels if I have a few minutes, I’ve got to fill it with something. I’m really into just peace and quiet. I didn’t like it so much when it was forced on me after my [bone marrow] transplant, but it helped me to re-examine who I am and imagine who I could still become.

On loving what you do and pushing for more: I love sports. I never worked a day in my life at ESPN. Just an absolute joy in covering the Olympics, Wimbledon, and all the amazing championships. I was very fortunate to have [pioneer black women] before me… but it was still very rare. I was one of the few women of color at that time to do it full-time and to be in the locker room… When I became a journalist, it was because I was passionate about sports and had an interest in journalism, but it quickly became a passion about journalism. I get to wake up and wish America a good morning, and do whatever we can to make it a good morning. … It’s not so much what we all accomplish, but what we’ve  overcome. That stays with you. That’s what means the most.

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