Architects of Change: Bob and Lee Woodruff Standing Up for Heroes

This series is inspired by Maria Shriver’s belief that we are all Architects of Change: Conscious Idealists who challenge what is, imagine what can be and have the courage to instigate change. Whether it’s challenging the status quo at their own kitchen table, in their office, community or on a national/international scale, Architects of Change are working to build a better world personally, professionally and politically. At, we’re inspired and on board.

This is a portrait of two advocates and philanthropists – a story of the power of love and a pair of boots.

In an instant you can meet the love of your life. And in an instant your life together as you know it can come to an end.

In late January 2006, Lee and Bob Woodruff seemed to have it all: each other, work they loved and four beautiful children. But when Bob, on assignment as ABC’s new national anchor, was hit by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq, everything changed. A complex brain injury nearly killed him. Doctors said he couldn’t recover.

[Profile of an Architect of Change: Kelly Meyer, Environmentalist in Action]

“But you don’t know my husband,” Lee Woodruff repeatedly told them. “You don’t know my Bob. He is strong.” The world then watched Bob’s 13 month miraculous recovery. Soon he returned to New York and ABC. But his return from Iraq left him and Lee certain one thing alone would make their nightmare worth it: to find a way to give our injured heroes access to the high level of support and resources they needed. The Bob Woodruff Foundation was born.

On January 29, 2016, ten years to the day of Bob’s attack, Lee, a journalist and New York Times bestselling author, unpacked, for the first time, Bob’s boots returned to her in a plastic bag from Iraq along with her husband’s wallet, watch and stains of blood. She took a photo of the boots and began writing a letter to her husband that has touched countless hearts:

January 29, 2016

Dear Bob,

Ten years. That’s how long it’s been since anyone has touched these boots.. . Rediscovering the bag, it suddenly struck me that the tenth anniversary of your Alive Day loomed. It’s the day you should have died, but instead came back to us.”

I urge you to read this letter all the way through. You will never read another like it. Like Lee herself, it is gorgeous beyond the words and may spark the question, “What can I do to help?” It has for thousands who wrote to Lee, also sending pictures of people’s boots.

[What Does It Mean to Be an Architect of Change?]

That sparked for Bob and Lee another innovative way to raise awareness:

“Using the hashtag #Stand4Heroes, post a photo—or better yet, a video—of boots or shoes that hold meaning for you. It could be that they made you happy or they supported you during a pivotal moment. Maybe you stood in them when you were tested, ran a marathon for your brother’s battle with cancer, met your husband, danced your head off. Challenge friends and families to do the same—tag them and inspire them to join.”

Larger than life New England Patriots All Star Defensive Linebacker Jerod Mayo kicked this off, and I think it can be the next “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Either way, please don’t get cold feet. Participate and be a part of architecting this change.

Bob today remains a rare breed of news reporters dedicated to far more than reading the lines off the teleprompter. As he has said, “Getting to the truth is the bottom line.”

As I see it, loving these dear friends as I do, the truth and bottom line is this: Doctors said, “You should not be here by any medical textbook known to man.” Before his brain surgery, Lee tearfully asked: “After, will he remember me – will he still love me?” The surgeons replied they “had never once seen anyone survive this kind of injury who didn’t return to the people they loved still loving them.”

[Read Maria Shriver’s latest ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ essay]

Love is the eternal survivor. Efforts we all make to be architects of change on whatever sized scale cause change because they are backed by the strength of love. We will never know its limits.

Reason to kick up your heels and “dance your head off.”

Happy Alive day to us all.



{Image credit: Michalel Browning, Unsplash}


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