Not long after I joined NBC News, while our family was decorating the house on a cold December evening two days before Christmas, we felt the familiar rumble of the FedEx truck in the snowy driveway and heard a knock at the door. Because any arriving parcel takes on a new excitement at that time of year, I recall we rather ungracefully ripped it open as a family, unassisted by scissors or the customary kitchen knife.
Beneath a fluffy white layer of scattering Styrofoam peanuts, we dug out what turned out to be an animated, mechanized flying Santa on a sleigh. We plugged in the faux-snow–covered base, and it came to life: Santa made continuous loops at the end of a slim steel wand. It went around and around, in the same direction and at the same speed, until we unplugged it well after Christmas Day. To this very day, it revolves on its appointed but finite route, each day at Christmastime in our house. It hasn't picked up any speed over the years, but it has gained in sentimental value, and in mechanical companionship.
Each year, while our children were young and absolutely captivated by such things, another wonderful animated Christmas contraption would arrive, to the great joy of our gang of four. After the first few years, the theme emerged: My boss Bob and his wife Suzanne were building something. Those first early pieces are now at the center of a bustling Christmas village—large enough by now to require its own table in the living room.
Each piece has a unique role: sledders careening down a plastic-snow–covered hill, skaters performing pirouettes on the rink at the base of 30 Rock—all of it moving in synchronized motion, each piece relating to every other one. While gazing at this frenetic, electronic Christmas tradition in our house this past season, the obvious comparison occurred to me.
These annual, individual gifts for our children are a metaphor for what Bob knows best: building a sizeable and impressive community piece by piece. Until earlier this year, Bob Wright was “the boss” at NBC, the only leader that two decades of employees had ever known. More important, Bob and Suzanne were the First Family of NBC—seeing to it that our own children saw them as family, despite a prevailing corporate culture in America that was becoming increasingly cold and parsimonious.
Although Bob started with a network and not a sleigh, he went on to build a whirling, bustling and burgeoning corporate empire—all of the pieces working together, in unison, and toward the same goal, which is still being realized today.
Those of us who call NBC home are the keepers of that legacy now; it's up to us to look after what Bob built. The pieces change over time, as do some of the faces, but it all fits. And it all works. It took vision to build. It exists today, like its scale-model Yuletide equivalent in our home, as something of an empire because, at the heart of the community, is family. It's the most important thing to Bob, and to me.
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