Garland Robinette's Open letter

Garland: Time to put down the microphone & pick up paint brushes

Garland Robinette, The Think Tank
July 07, 2017 - 11:48 am

Finally, it’s time to put down my second passion and pick up my first.  In other words, time to put down the microphone and pick up the paint brushes.

40 years in the public eye is a long time, and it’s been a long run of “wonderfuls.”  Never did I think a boy from the swamps with little education could travel the world, meet presidents, kings, movie stars and see places I had only read and dreamed about.  If we do come back to this world for multiple lifetimes, I think I’m in trouble because I’ve used up all my luck in this one. 

There is only one thing that enabled this incredible life experience of mine—it’s you, the listener…the viewer…and for you I am eternally in your debt.  Ironically, even those of you who criticized, even disliked me--helped me.  One of the things I always tried to do was listen to people who disagreed, and in a large percentage of those debates you were right and I was wrong.  Each of those debates was a learning experience of which I emerged a little bit better educated.  A little bit better able to see the world not as I wanted, but as it is.  I fell into a “thinking tank.”

I feel good that I was the first to warn of the loss of Louisiana wetlands.  I feel grateful that I worked for a corporation (WWL TV) that allowed me to travel the world to gather proof of the coming destruction of southern Louisiana, when no one was interested.  It was a subject that may not have led to additional ratings, but the legendary general manager (Mike Early) agreed that we should spend the money, even if there was little to no return. I spent twenty years in a television anchor job of which I was not wholly qualified, but some wonderful people (Angela Hill, Jim Henderson and many others) propped me up so that few noticed.

Then, came WWL radio.  Then came the Think Tank.  Ironically just months after taking the job fulltime, Katrina happened.  That’s kind of the pattern of my life – the swamps, Vietnam, TV, Freeport, my own crisis management company – I get thrown in head first.  Baptism by madness.  And, what a baptism it was.  Will we get through the storm?  Will we recover all those lost and left after levees breached?  Will the city we all love ever come back?  If so, what do we have to do to make sure it’s better than before?  

Like always, I went into “fight mode” – “do or die mode.”  I called a lot of people out at our nation’s capital, in state and city offices.  Leadership is imperative – that’s the only way you survive…war.   And, this time the war was about our home.  I feel bad about the public officials I attacked during Katrina, the aftermath, recovery & rebuild.  Most were simply trying to do their jobs and I let my anger take over my objectivity.  I was seen and heard through the tremendous reach on WWL radio.  This Cajun boy somehow became the face of crisis & recovery on network and cable television…and newspapers around the country and globe.  But, those behind me during those dark days were not.  They were and are, the best group of people you have never known.  I’m talking about the team, the family that is WWL radio.  They were your flashlights in your darkened homes.  They were the connection between you and missing loved ones.  They were the main reason America finally responded to your nightmares.  As I think back, I still can’t believe I worked with them.  I was able watch this dedicated team close up.  I saw their lack of sleep, lack of food, and inability to find their loved ones, because they were on a public mission of which they would receive no extra monetary or verbal reward.  All of this was orchestrated by a name you should know and revere.  She is called Diane Newman.  She was the match that lit your recovery.  Because of her I walked with heroes.  

 I am eternally grateful for that experience as tough and tragic as it was.  It teaches each of us…all of us…what we’re made of…and what we are capable of rising above.  I am also grateful for all the years that followed in the Think Tank.  I learned so much from all of our amazing guests, thanks to my producer Helen Centanni.  I learned so much from you, my listeners, who challenged their and my thinking.  I learned so much from clients and sponsors, who trusted and believed in me…as I did them.  I learned so much about powerful yet personal leadership by the team that is David Field & Entercom Communications. 

At this moment, I’m standing before a big five foot by five foot oil portrait of a family.  I can smell, see and touch my true love--the paints, the colors, the peace and the music.  But in the background there plays an intermittent recording of all the wonderful things I’ve seen and done because of you.  It’s hard to let go…so instead, I’ll join you…as a listener.

I’ve had five totally different careers in my life.  It’s time to go to number six—the magical and mysterious world of art.  Thank you for helping me to get here.

Join me in the studio sometime. 


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