Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jackie and Barack

I have always loved Jackie Robinson's story. I ran across this article where his wife had some very interesting stuff to say about the election and the kind of man she sees in Barack Obama. I think the whole article is worth a read but here's how it starts out:

Rachel Robinson is no stranger to the long-delayed triumphs of history. Yet even she never really believed she would live to see what unfolded Tuesday.

Barack Obama, Democratic nominee, son of a Kansas-born mother and an African father, was elected president of the United States. In African-American communities across the nation, neighbors flocked early to the polls. Many kept campaigning even after pressing down Obama's lever, raising signs, making calls or simply offering up prayers.

Rachel admittedly had taken her time before joining in. For months, she studied the way Obama responded to the attack strategy of Republican nominee John McCain. She watched to see how he coped with the relentless barbs, epitomized when Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, suggested that Obama "is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America."

None of that shocked Rachel, who as a young woman witnessed vitriol in its most undiluted forms. She was more interested in a quality that bile can inspire. She found it during one of the debates, when Obama -- under belittling fire from McCain -- remained bemused, seemingly unflappable.

At that moment, the widow of Jackie Robinson believed.

Rachel is 86. It has been 61 years since her husband broke the color line in major league baseball -- and single-handedly helped transform the United States.

He took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers despite receiving the occasional death threat, in an era when blacks who challenged barriers faced real risks of being killed. The game itself hardly provided any sanctuary. The abuse from other players could be vile and profane.

Jackie endured. He played with relentless brilliance, opening the door for other blacks to excel in the major leagues. As much as any figure in American history, he made it impossible for millions of white Americans to justify the absurdity of segregation. For decades, he was the unrivaled model, the historic template, for American diversity.

He got some company Tuesday, when Obama was elected.

Even during Jackie's hardest moments, Rachel said, she didn't feel sorry for her husband. And her ultimate compliment to Obama is the way she came to realize he didn't need her to feel sorry for him, either.

"Men like that put themselves in those positions," said Rachel, who established the Jackie Robinson Foundation in New York City. "They want to do something, they want to create change. I always felt (Jackie) could stand up, and I never felt he would wilt under (the abuse) or be unable to manage it."

Obama, she said, shares those qualities.

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