Well, sports fans — it’s a big time! Last week, the UNC Tar Heels became NCAA Champions with their Redemption in the Desert, and all the hearts here in Chapel Hill beat Carolina blue together.
This week, we look towards a very special occasion on Saturday, April 15th, 2017: the 70th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game and historic breaking of the “color barrier” in baseball. As a former Brooklynite, this story is near and dear to my heart. It epitomizes the values of equality and diversity that brought me to that borough so long ago. But in addition to becoming the first African-American to ever play in the majors, Jackie brought quite an impressive resume. For example, did you know that he attended UCLA and lettered in baseball, basketball, football and track? There’s no doubt that #42 was a force to be reckoned with when it came to sheer athletic talent.
As we know, Jackie was also a man of incredible integrity. As I wrote this word (one of my favorites!) the letters grit leapt off the screen. Jackie Robinson faced tough challenges and taunts on the field and heartbreaking alienation on the road. It’s hard to believe that this superstar was not allowed to eat at restaurants with his teammates or stay in the same hotels where they slept. It’s hard for me to even type that reality. I don’t want to believe it’s true, and yet we must remember this part of the story — now more than ever.
So on Saturday, in Dodger Stadium, a larger-than-life statue will be unveiled in honor of this hero. We will celebrate this amazing man’s journey. I’d also like to highlight the ways his memory still lives today. Did you know that the Jackie Robinson Foundation is funding the college education of over 30 scholars? Not only that, but JRF provides a curriculum of “42 Strategies for Success” to inspire and empower young people to reach for their dreams — including an initiative called “Extra Innings” for Graduate Fellows.
There’s no doubt that Jackie Robinson created a new canvas for all of us in sports, but with the power of this Foundation, we have only begun to see a glimpse of his legacy in learning.