1.24.2009

A Week for Barriers: Jackie Robinson & Barack Obama



The sports world changed forever in 1947 when Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey signed a young black man named Jackie Robinson. He was the first black man ever to play Major League Baseball, and he paved the way for Willie Mays, Ernie Banks, Hank Aaron and Larry Doby. His influence on the game of baseball and the rest of the American sports landscape will never truly be comprehended.

His guts, charisma, and love for the game took the Dodgers and the National League by storm, and 47 years ago today, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson entered Baseball's hallowed ground, the Hall of Fame.

More than his superb statistics, and tenacious talent, Robinson's efforts in bridging the racial gap between the Negro Leagues and Major League Baseball has been the pinnacle of integration in America. But ironically, this 47th anniversary of his election to the Hall of Fame comes in the same week that the first African-American President took office in the United States.

Although Jackie Robinson will never be bested as an American pioneer, he now has company in the form of President Barack Obama. Not only have they broken barriers that were once thought as impossible to break, but their paths to success have parallelled.

Both Robinson and Obama grew up playing basketball, and went to college in California. While Robinson was an All-American in three sports at UCLA, Obama started his college education in Los Angeles's Occidental College. Their abilities to maintain strong ties between their culture, sports, and their ability to persevere what the world doubted them for, is uncanny. Robinson was, and still is a hero for millions, living the life of a movie script. Obama is similar, living a dream and inspiring all of America, and spawning hope around the world.

Barack Obama has a long way to go to enter a mythical hall of fame of Presidents, but paving the way for generations of those who couldn't, is a good start. Should he ever need guidance during his tenure as Commander in Chief, Obama can just look to Jackie Robinson, an American hero.


Photo: The New York Observer

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