Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Grace Under Pressure

It's difficult not to think of Jim Robbins this week. The day he died, I was in Denver, where the Cable industry was gathered to honor its leaders. Jim's sudden absence from his hundreds of friends and colleagues at the Cable Center was acutely felt, so much so, that some--like Ann Carlsen--were too shaken to be among all of us who had honored Jim the year before at the same event.

Two years ago, when Cable Positive was preparing to honor Jim and Cox Communications for their outstanding work in communities across the country in the fight against HIV/AIDS, I was in Atlanta at Cox headquarters, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and watched the Cox team--led by Robbins--mobilize to do all it could to help its employees and customers who had been forced out of their homes.

This week, with my own family members being evacuated from their homes in Southern California as firestorms rage across a swath of 150 miles, I'm in Atlanta again as the Cox team--led this time by Pat Esser--moves into nationwide action to help families like my own through yet another life and death emergency. Appropriately, there are two memorial services being held for Jim Robbins in Atlanta this week, but the most fitting tribute to the man who personified JFK's definition of courage as being "grace under pressure," is being carried out right now across the country by the amazingly talented and caring team of individuals he put in place at Cox--and were always the first Jim would credit with any success.

When Cable Positive honored Jim Robbins in 2006, he expressed to me several times how embarrassed he was by the recognition. "I don't deserve this," he would repeat, as if it were a mantra. "My team does; they're the ones who made me realize how important it was to use our resources to fight AIDS." That, I said to Jim, was precisely why he deserved to be honored. It takes a courageous leader, with a good deal of personal grace and strength, to act on that, and to make his people's passions become his own.

Jim Robbins personified service, commitment and courage and he brought those powerful traits, and many more admirable ones, to any cause--in any circumstance--in which he was involved. No matter how briefly he may have touched our lives, we are better people for having been graced by his presence.

1 comment:

Anthony Surratt said...

Steve: What a nice tribute to Jim Robbins. He definitely was a larger-than-life guy in the industry and here at Cox. Thanks for your kind words about him and the company!