John: I am here with Rob Zabbia, Model Citizen Magazine Man of the Year. Congratulations Robert.
Robert: Thank you very much. It is really an honor. There are a lot of great people involved with this publication.
John: I have to tell you that in all the years that I have been shooting I have quietly been observing you and I haven’t really seen many people do as much for charity as you do. You really are out there all the time, not only financially, but also supporting charities by being there and putting in the effort. What is it that motivated you to get involved in the community?
Robert: When I was growing up my dad was very involved. He worked hard so he couldn’t do everything, but he helped out with Scouts, with baseball, and things like that, my mom was involved with our school as well. So to see my parents always taking time to do all of that, I learned from them early on that community is important.
Then when we lost Brian, everybody wanted to send things to us because we lost our baby, but I didn’t want flowers, or food. So, we gave it some thought and then suggested that people donate to The Columbus Lodge and Sons of Italy because they have a scholarship program. We felt that was a good place for people to donate. That is pretty much where it really started, getting involved with the Columbus Lodge which is a fraternal organization that is very supportive in the community. They do a lot of really good work. Also, being involved with the Chamber of Commerce early on in my Allstate career. After that, I really wanted to step up my efforts and be more hands-on.
John: So, your parents set a great example and that was an inspiration for you. You also just mentioned losing a child, that must have been very challenging.
Robert: Our son Brian was born prematurely at just 20 weeks. There was no chance for survival and so it was a very tough time. I would not want another couple to go through it. Sometimes tragedy like that divides people, but luckily for Joey and I, we stayed strong through it all. We did have to reach out for help because we couldn’t really deal with it. We built some really great friendships through the support group we joined. Some of our closest friends are people that we know from there and still keep in touch with.
2020, it has become more than just a year, and it is now becoming an adjective. We have lost so many people and so much time with our loved ones being separated because of the virus, and because of politics. It seems like neither is going away soon, and I have chosen to step away from both and focus on what matters most. I have lost too much in 2020 and being apart from family is too much for me to deal with.
One of the bright spots of 2020 for me was reconnecting with my cousins and aunts. My mom is one of 6 girls, and my grandmother was what brought us all together. We were one of those families that cousins were my friends. We had so many memories to share over the years, with a big age difference from the oldest to the youngest. Losing my sister Alexis this year to cancer was a big blow to all of us because she was the youngest of the group.
But we had great memories from 2020 because of social media, and video conferencing. We had calls almost every week, laughed, got to see the kids and grandkids of everyone, and got to spend quality, although distant time over the internet. My cousin recorded them, so we have something to look back to when thinking of Alexis and can share them with her girls.
The people in my life have been an incredible source of strength in helping me deal with the loss of my sister. People started sending the girls books and crafts to help my bother in law Mike and his family keep the girls occupied. Someone even sent them the Disney Princess Treasure chest, and the girls dress up every day. People have donated to their college fund, and it is much appreciated. It will help them have as normal a life as anyone can after losing their mom at 3 years old. They have a long tough road ahead of them, but Mike and his family have all of us to help them get through it.
My first takeaway from the final Presidential Debate before the election is that this should be the final Presidential Debate run by the commission. Debates are about the candidates and them questioning each other and answering agreed-upon questions by the moderator. I do believe that Kristen Welker did an adequate job, she wasn’t a fully neutral moderator who was there to keep the debate on focus and not become the scream fest the first debate was. The issue is in all three debates, there were three people featured, and it became as much about the moderator as it did about the candidates.
I think that both candidates handled themselves well in this debate. There weren’t any major gaffs by either candidate, they both respected the moderator when their time was up, and there wasn’t the name-calling of the first debate. I think there was a clear definition of how these two candidates have very different visions for our country, and they both solidified their bases. I’m sure there are some undecided voters out there, so they do now have clear contrasts between the candidates to help make up their final decision.
Here are where I think the major differences come down to. When it comes to the economy, Trump wants to continue his deregulation and lower taxes to get the country back to the rapid growth and low unemployment of the pre-COVID era. People can argue whether it was the greatest economy in our history, as he claims, but they can’t argue that statistics show that wages were climbing, wage inequality was closing, and there was record low unemployment to every demographic. Trump wants to open up the economy and get people back to work as he claims the COVID is going to go away.
Biden is looking to increase taxes on businesses and high-income wage earners, increase corporate taxes, and have the government increase stimulus to get money to lower-income families. Biden wants to “transition” from oil and fracking and invest more into green energy to get more employed while reducing carbon emissions. This all sounds great, but do we want to go back to the slow growth, low participation economy of the Obama-Biden years? Some would gladly say yes, we did come out of the worst recessions since the depression. But why did the country reject this idea and elect Trump in the first place?
The way I see it, our country is divided into three groups. There are the die-hard Democrats, the die-hard Republicans, and then the undecided or swing voters. Since the Bush/Gore election, our country has become increasingly polarized. It really began with Clinton and the impeachment and both sides sticking to their guns, but the contested election is what got us to where we are today.
Going into the debate, I made a comment that if Biden fumbles his way through the debate, this is all over. The swing voters will be uncomfortable with a President who has questionable stamina and the ability to think on his feet. If you use the fact that Joe Biden didn’t completely stumble, then he came out ahead. Like the experienced politician that he is, Biden didn’t answer the questions that he didn’t want to and instead spoke directly to the audience.
Trump was Trump. He was direct, disregarded the moderator, and went after Joe Biden directly. In some cases, he was debating both the moderator and his opponent, and never showed a sweat. He relied on his record, avoided answering a few of the questions that he didn’t want to address, and was in full-on attack mode. Some polls show that this was a good tactic for some audiences.