A Moment for The Ages

I always wondered what it was like in America back during that spring of 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the “color barrier” with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Now I think I know, after seeing Barack Obama win perhaps the most historic Presidential election in the history of this country.

Robinson and the President-elect have a lot in common. They were men who had dreams, men who fulfilled those dreams, men who weren’t afraid to dare. Men who achieved what few thought possible.

Both Robinson and Obama broke barriers, not because they were black, but because one was a great ballplayer and the other a brilliant politician.

As we as a nation witnessed history the other night, I could only  imagine the pride and joy that so many felt and the tears that so many shed were the same emotions fans at Ebbets Field and people across the country felt in the spring of 1947.

In Idols of the Game, Robert Lipsyte and Pete Levine described Jackie Robinson’s first major league game, April 15, 1947, Opening Day in Brooklyn against the Braves.

Time for A Change
“It was the most eagerly anticipated debut in the annals of the national pastime. It represented both the dream and the fear of equal opportunity, and it would change forever the complexion of the game and the attitudes of Americans.”

It wasn’t easy for Robinson. As the great slugger Henry Aaron wrote in the TIME 100, celebrating the most influential figures of the 20th Century, he said:

“Jackie Robinson had to be bigger than life. He had to be bigger than the Brooklyn teammates who got up a petition to keep him off the ball club, bigger than the pitchers who threw at him or the base runners who dug their spikes into his shin, bigger than  the bench jockeys who hollered for him to carry their bags and shine their shoes,  bigger than the so-called fans who mocked him with mops on their heads and wrote him death threats. ”

Robinson did it. He achieved something many thought would never happen in a segregated society. America is more integrated today, more tolerant than 60 years ago, but racial tension and bigotry still exist. Yet despite that, despite all the hurdles, Barack Obama achieved his dream and with it the dreams of many other Americans as well.

As Obama began his victory speech in front of a quarter of a million people on a November night in Chicago’s Grant Park, he said:.

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”

Yes, dreams do come true in America.

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