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A Unique Father and Son Partnership

By John Robbins

John and Ocean Robbins, 1973

As parents, we are given both an enormous blessing and an enormous responsibility with each child that is born to us. We are asked to nurture, guide and serve our children, to help them become the most healthy and most magnificent human beings they are capable of, and at the same time to show them that our love for them is unconditional.

As my son Ocean was growing up, I was grateful to be a guide to him on his path, and yet I always knew that it was his path that he was taking, and that it was not my role to define it for him or to ask him to fulfill my own unmet needs. His accomplishments were many, but what was far more meaningful to me was his kindness, his thoughtfulness of others, his humility and his innate sense of joy. As his achievements mounted, I would frequently remind him that although I had great appreciation for his brilliance and his successes, I wouldn’t love him any less if he were autistic or retarded.

Now in his late thirties, Ocean Robbins has become a leading spokesperson and advocate for the creation of thriving, just and sustainable ways of life for all. Recently, along with

John and Ocean, 1978

his beloved wife, Michele, Ocean was the recipient of two extraordinary honors.

1)   Each year, the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute in conjunction with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement sponsors the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The Jubilee takes place at the foot of Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, and is a celebration of the right to vote and the march from Selma to Montgomery.  Each year, up to 30,000  people gather on the bridge to commemorate “Bloody Sunday” — the historic bridge crossing march in 1965 that was blocked by violence, yet ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights act.

A feature of the Jubilee is the giving of the Freedom’s Flame awards.  According to the Jubilee’s website (, the giving of the Freedom’s Flame awards “is the Jubilee’s most prestigious event. Past Freedom’s Flame award winners include Dr. Martin

John and Ocean, 1989

Luther King and Corretta Scott King, Harry Belafonte, Andrew Young, and John Lewis.

In 2008, Ocean and Michele Robbins were honored as recipients of the “Couple of the Movement” Freedom’s Flame award. Michele and Ocean may be the youngest couple, and the first white people, ever to receive this award.

2)  The Jefferson Awards for Public Service were established in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr., and several prominent philanthropists.  The goal, according to the Jefferson Awards website, was “to create a Nobel Prize for public and community service… to encourage and honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through

Ocean and John, 1995

public and community service.”

The board of the Jefferson Awards prides themselves on being nonpartisan, and the recipients over the years have been leaders who cross the entire range of the political spectrum.  The winners of these awards have included many of the most prominent and influential people in the nation today (including, just to name a smattering, Colin Powell, Walter Cronkite, Bob Hope, Jimmy Carter, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill and Melinda Gates.) Here is a link to the list of the past winners of the Jefferson Awards:

Ocean, John, River and Bodhi Robbins, 2007

Each year, the black-tie awards ceremony takes in Washington, DC. The ceremony has been attended by all former U.S. Presidents.  Up to sixty members of the Senate are often on hand that day, as well.

Each year, four national awards are given, including one for the Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Younger. Previous winners in this category have included Cesar Chavez, Max Cleland, Faith Hill, Lance Armstrong, and Peyton Manning. In 2008, Ocean Robbins was the winner in this category.

Being Ocean’s father has been perhaps the greatest privilege of my life. Throughout his life, I’ve been continually strengthened by the profound alignment that exists between our values, our aspirations, and our commitments.

I began writing my first book, Diet For A New America, when Ocean was only eleven-years-old, but

even then I felt his spirit and his heart as a great support for my efforts. Today, Ocean plays a key role in the creation of all my books,

John and Ocean, 2010

and collaborates with me in all my projects.

Am I proud of him? Of course. But far more I am grateful for the opportunity to know him, and to be of service to him and to that which he serves. More than pride, I feel gratitude, and a sense of joy and wonder at what an ineffable blessing it is to be his father.

Learn more about Ocean and his work here.

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