Thank you, Jackie Robinson, for everything you did to make the world, as I know it, a better place.
Thank you for your courage. The courage to accept on April 15th 1947 the challenge of being the first African-American baseball player ever to be allowed to play in a major league game. You knew you would face resistance from fans, and fellow players, including in your own dugout. You knew that there would be unbelievable pressure to perform on the field at a level higher than most of your white contemporaries. You knew that your entire life would be under unprecedented scrutiny by the media, the public, and the league, all of whom were waiting for your slightest indiscretion to pounce on. You knew that the future of every other aspiring black baseball player not just at that time, but for generations to come, would depend on your performance both on and off the field. You knew that the challenge being placed at your feet would not only define the future of baseball, but potentially could change the course of race relations within the United States, and the world. Knowing all that, you still accepted the challenge and the responsibility, with courage and conviction.
Thank you for your strength. You knew that your inner strength would be tested more than that of any man to ever wear a baseball uniform. You would need more than just the strength to defend yourself under the most difficult and demanding circumstances – you would need the strength not to. Every moment you were on the field, and every moment you were in the public eye, you displayed that strength, and used it to inspire similar strength in others.
Thank you for your passion. No one could have endured the challenges, pressures, the threats, and inhumane treatment that you did during your pursuit to attain your dream of playing major league baseball, had they not had a deep passion for the game. A passion that motivated you to fight past the obstacles you confronted every day, and to continue on your journey to greatness.
Thank you for your sense of purpose. You were chosen to be the one to break through that barrier of bigotry, and to pull major league baseball out of its own embarrassing, self-imposed darkness, and into the light, because of your talent and character. What no one could measure was the intense sense of purpose that you would forge from within, to accomplish the charge entrusted to you. The responsibility and accountability was on your shoulders alone, yet your purpose was for all, and even in victory you never waivered from that purpose, or fell victim to the seduction of self-adulation.
Thank you, Jackie Robinson, for all that you gave us not just as a talented baseball player, but more importantly as a man of unyielding character.
You truly are a role model for any race.