James Devaney/GC Images RobinRoberts
Robin Roberts is marking a major milestone!
the Good Morning America anchor celebrated 20 years on the ABC daytime series Thursday, to fanfare from colleagues and former guests alike.
“I am incredibly grateful and truly humbled. … It’s been wonderful,” said Roberts, 61, adding later, “To be with you all … I am so abundantly blessed. I don’t know how this happened. I’m just really grateful at this moment.”
During the show, co-anchors Michael Strahan and George Stephanopoulos, as well as fellow GMA stars Ginger Zee, Lara Spencer and Sam Champion, looked back at two decades of highlights from Roberts’ time on GMA.
“Robin is the heart of GMA. She has a special connection to the audience, and all of us,” said Stephanopoulos, 61. “I’m always feeling, if I could be helped the woman she is … and I don ‘t think anyone comes close, always bringing endless energy and two dazzling decades of dancing.”
“I’m always thinking to her work in the Gulf Coast,” said Strahan, 50. “Our Robin has a whole lot of heart.”
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“She makes me want to be a great teammate,” he added. “For someone who has been in this business for as long as she has, she still has the energy about her that’s like she’s here for her first day.”
“Robin and I were sometimes Lucy and Ethel dancing in the grapes,” said Diane Sawyer. “And sometimes we were Thelma and Louise, ready for any adventure. And we were pioneers, as two women co-anchoring the broadcast.”
Calling her “so easy to be with,” Champion, 60, praised Roberts, “Most people who are on camera hold a part of themselves in reserve and give a version of them. As well as I know her, you know her just as I know her.”
Roberts also received shout-outs from celebrity friends, including Maks Chmerkovskiy and Billie Jean King — the latter of whom Roberts credited as one of the people who encouraged her to join the ABC morning program.
“Dear Robin. I’ve had some incredible performances in the last 20-plus years in television, but none more incredible than when I got to dance with you for your birthday,” said Chmerkovskiy, 42. “Congratulations on an incredible 20- year career.”
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After congratulating “the GOAT” Roberts on her tenure, King, 78, asked, “Do you remember when we were talking, you were doing an interview with me for ESPN, and after the interview you said, ‘Can I talk to you for a second?’ “
“And we went over to the corner and you said, ‘I have a chance to be on GMA but a lot of people think I should stay at ESPN and not move, just cover sports. What do you think?’ ” King added. “And of course, when she was saying this, in my head I was going, ‘Are you kidding? You’ve got a chance to be on GMA!’ Because Robin was our superstar and I said to her, ‘For me, it’s not even a question. Robin, you should go to GMA!’ “
“I remember that! Because, as so many of you know, it wasn’t on our radar to be here,” Roberts told King. “And so, I wanted her to say, ‘You can’t go! You’ve got to stay in sports!’ Because that was my comfort zone. … And I’m grateful to ESPN, because I was still working there at the time this started, and they encouraged me as well.”
“But I’ll never forget David Westin, [ABC News’] president at the time, calling me and saying I was going to be a permanent member of Good Morning America,” she went on. “I hadn’t even applied for the job. It just happens, and I’m so grateful to him [and] Shelley Ross, who was on [executive producer] at the time. And nothing happened without the approval of Charlie [Gibson] and Diane. Thank you Charlie and Diane for believing in me. But what a ride.”
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In one of the morning’s most touching segments, GMA caught back up with some of the real people whose lives Roberts changed — like Sandy and Junius “JJ” Chambers, who celebrated their wedding on the show two decades ago.
“She was the new kid on the block,” JJ said of Roberts, “yet she came to us and made a kinship to us.”
“That’s what this is about,” Roberts said, tearing up. “That’s what it’s about. It’s not a montage of highlights of things that we’ve done. It’s about the people we’ve met, hopefully the impact we’ve been able to have.”
“I’m not the only one celebrating 20 years together,” she added.
Grammy winner Indie.Arie — who co-wrote a song with Roberts called “A Beautiful Day” for GMA years ago — also gave Roberts some love.
“I want to thank you for the walk, showing us that life is a journey not a destination,” she said, singing “Lay down your regrets because all we have is now” before adding, “Thank you for being there for us all these 20 years.”
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To cement her legacy, a permanent plaque was installed in New York City’s Times Square with Roberts’ name on it, so fans can visit and honor her themselves.
In a sweet twist, the location even has a special meeting for the accomplished anchor.
“I was standing in this spot when we were told we were No. 1. I have felt No. 1 from day one of these 20 years, working with all of you,” she said. “This is a drop the mic moment.”
The morning ended with performance from Roberts’ friend Patti LaBelle, singing her 1984 classic “New Attitude.”
“All I can say to you at home [is] thank you for inviting me into your home and lives for the last 20 years and counting,” Roberts addressed the audience during the broadcast. “Bless you.”