VegSource Interactive, Inc. | YES!

Ocean Robbins: Continuing the Legacy
by Jeff Nelson

While many in the vegetarian world are well aware of the inspiring and prolific work of activist, bestselling author, and EarthSave founder John Robbins, many may not be as aware of the accomplishments of John’s son, Ocean, and the amazing recognition and awards he has recently earned.

Ocean Robbins

Ocean has been an activist since the age of seven when he organized a peace rally in his elementary school. In 1990, when he was sixteen, Robbins co-founded YES!, “Helping Visionary Young Leaders Build a Better World.” Since then, YES! has reached more than 620,000 students in school assemblies, held 100+ week-long gatherings for young leaders from 65+ nations, and helped to inspire the formation of more than 400 non-profit clubs and organizations working for positive change. Ocean has spent more than 19 years as director for this non-profit organization, and has personally facilitated camps and workshops in Singapore, Costa Rica, Russia, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, India, Jordan, Peru, and across the U.S.

Last year, there were two vastly different and yet both exceedingly public ways that the work of Ocean – along with his wife, Michele – were recognized:

Freedom’s Flame Award Each year the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute in conjunction with 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference sponsors the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The Jubilee takes place at the foot of Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge, and is a celebration and commemoration of the right to vote and the march from Selma to Montgomery. Each year, 30,000 people gather on the bridge to commemorate “Bloody Sunday” -- the historic bridge crossing march in 1965 that was blocked by violence, yet ultimately led to the passage of the Voting Rights act.

Story continues below

A feature of the Jubilee is the giving of the Freedom’s Flame awards. According to the Jubilee’s website (, the giving of the Freedom’s Flame awards “is the Jubilee’s most prestigious event. The 21st Century Youth Leadership Movement and SCLC join with the National Voting Rights Museum & Institute to honor the keepers of the flame of freedom.”

Ocean and Michele

Last year, Ocean and Michele were honored as winners of the “Couple of the Movement” Freedom’s Flame award. They received the award in Selma, Alabama, on March 8 at a gala reception and dinner attended by many celebrities and heroes of the civil rights movement, on the eve of the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee, March 9.

Michele and Ocean may be the youngest couple to receive this award, and are among the first white people. The first “Couple of the Movement” award winners were Dr. Martin Luther King and Corretta Scott King.

Jefferson Awards for Greatest Public Service The Jefferson Awards for Public Service were established in 1972 by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Senator Robert Taft, Jr., and several prominent philanthropists. The goal, according to the Jefferson Awards website, was “to create a Nobel Prize for public and community service... to encourage and honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through public and community service.”

Each year, four national awards are given, one in each of four categories. The board of the Jefferson Awards prides themselves on being nonpartisan, and the recipients over the years have been leaders who cross the entire range of the political spectrum. The winners of these awards have included many of the most prominent and influential people in the nation today (including, just to name a smattering, Colin Powell, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Ralph Nader, Walter Cronkite, Bob Hope, Jimmy Carter, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill and Melinda Gates.)

One of the four categories is Greatest Public Service by an Individual 35 Years or Younger. Previous winners in this category have included Cesar Chavez, Max Cleland, Faith Hill, Lance Armstrong, and Peyton Manning.

Last year, Ocean Robbins was the winner in this category.

Ocean accepts Jeffreson Award

The black-tie awards ceremony took place in Washington, DC, on June 17. The ceremony was supported by several former U.S. Presidents, and sixty members of the Senate.

To view a list of impressive past winners of the Jefferson Awards, visit:

It is a testament to Ocean’s achievement to have his and his wife’s work recognized by two such powerful, and yet so very different, perspectives. One award is from a center of progressive change, the other from a center of established power. Apparently, these two perspectives both have seen something in Ocean’s and Michele’s work that has moved them deeply.

Congratulations, Ocean, Michele – and John and Deo!

To learn more about Ocean and his work, visit:

VIDEO: Watch Ocean's new film "This is Our Time: Young Voices from the Inauguration"

Message From Ocean: I just got back from being in DC with a bunch of young leaders for the inauguration. It was so inspiring! We realized that this moment isn't just about Barack Obama, it's also about the people who brought him into office. The 18-29 year-old demographic voted in record numbers and supported him by a 2-1 margin in the general election. The success or failure of the new administration has a lot less to do with Obama than with us, the people of this country.

So we made a 10 minute movie profiling the voices of young leaders including among others Van Jones of Green for All, Jesse Carmichael and Mickey Madden of Maroon 5, Coumba Toure of Ashoka, singer/songwriter Goapele, and young voices on the streets, at this crucial moment in history. We asked them what this moment means to them, and what opportunities they see in the crises we face. Their answers surprised and moved us, and the result is a totally spontaneous and - I think you'll agree - powerfully moving piece, straight from the action in Washington, DC.

Check out This Is Our Time: Young Voices from the Inauguration, at

We invite you to check the video out and forward this link widely. If you have a Facebook page, please consider posting this video there, and send it out to your friends. If you are so inspired, leave feedback and comments on youtube. If you are interested in ordering DVD copies, let us know.

Yours for a thriving, just and sustainable future,