My Turn, Renee C. Scheidt: Robinson serves as an example of overcoming adversity

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 13, 2022

By Renee C. Scheidt

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters,” said Epictetus. And he should know.

Though born a Roman slave in the first century, he became a famous philosopher whose works are still taught today. It’s quite remarkable that he went from such extreme oppression to great worldly esteem. His secret: he took responsibility for his own life and rejected becoming a victim of his circumstances.

I couldn’t help but think of this famous quote when I heard our Lt. Governor Mark Robinson speak recently. To say I was impressed is an understatement. This is a man with fire in his bones. He is passionate about making N.C. one of the best places to live in the entire country. After listening to him, I’m convinced he will.

But according to statistics, he shouldn’t be where he is. According to statistics, instead of being a successful American citizen living the American Dream, he should have ended up on skid row, claiming to be a victim of the system.

You see, Mr. Robinson is an African-American who was born in poverty. His father was an alcoholic wife-beater. Robinson, the ninth of 10 children, lived in a house with no heat, no air conditioning and no shower. Things got so bad that, for a time, he was removed from the home and put into the foster care program. After the death of his father, he went back home where his mother, a strong Bible-believing Christian with only a fifth-grade education, raised him to believe he could be anything he wanted to be. He credits her for making him the man he is today.

If anyone had a reason to blame others for why he couldn’t make it on his own, Mr. Robinson did. Yet, he refused to give his power of choice to others. Instead of letting all the negative factors of his early years define him, he chose to make positive choices that propelled him to succeed.

Singing the ol’ “Somebody done me wrong song” was not part of his repertoire. Rather, he took charge of his life, turned it around by making responsible decisions and now enjoys the rewards of those right choices. Overcoming all odds, he made his way from the worst of times to the best of times. Simply put, he decided to let go of his past and did the next right thing.

All of us at one time or another have been dealt a bad hand in this game of life. It’s true that some seem to have more hardships than others. Many times, we may be an innocent victim who had no say in the matter and didn’t deserve all the painful fallout. What we all have in common, however, is the ability to decide: now what? Will I use this as a stepping stone to move on up or a stumbling block that trips me up the remainder of my earthly days? Personal volition is a powerful tool that either makes us or breaks us.

What a loss it would have been to all North Carolinians had Mr. Robinson ever given in to the temptation to throw in the towel. Instead, he made history by becoming the first black to hold the position of lieutenant governor in our state. What’s also very interesting is that he never set out to run for public office. He simply went to the Greensboro City Council meeting in April, 2018 to voice his objection to guns being taken away from law abiding citizens. His three minute speech went viral. Overnight, a new career began. He became a champion for ordinary citizens, fighting to keep our rights as written in the Constitution.

Whether you agree with his political decisions or not, it cannot be denied he’s an exemplary example and inspiration for all to follow. He deserves our admiration in being an overcomer, not a victim.

The next time somebody tries to give me a song and dance about why they just can’t make it, I’ll listen politely, then ask them, “What do you know about our lieutenant governor?” After hearing his story, most all of us are left without an excuse. If he can do it, why can’t we all?

Renee C. Scheidt lives in Salisbury.