(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – For the first time since the 2004 election, President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry shared a stage Wednesday to honor baseball’s greatest hero, Jackie Robinson.
Distinguished members of congress, civil rights leaders, Robinson’s family and members of the Red Sox baseball team gathered in the U.S. Capitol rotunda to present Rachel Robinson, Jackie’s wife, the Congressional Gold Medal. Speakers included leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the Reverend Jesse Jackson.
“Jackie was made of courage, decency and honor,” Bush said at the ceremony. “His life achievements show what one person can do to hold America accountable for providing freedom and equality.”
In 1947 Robinson broke the color barrier by becoming the first black major league baseball player for the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1949 he won the National League batting title, as well as, the most valuable player award.
In 2003, Kerry said he introduced legislation to honor Robinson — not for his baseball greatness — but for his lesser-known civil rights work. The Senate and House passed the legislation last fall.
“Through the courage of his actions, Jackie Robinson engaged America in a constructive conversation about race long before the momentous events of the 1960s,” Kerry said. “He stood up to bigotry with dignity and inspired our country. Today is an opportunity to honor this baseball legend for his work off the field and a time to recognize that the struggle for equal opportunity continues.”
Robinson’s wife, who accepted the award alongside her two children, said that her husbands “legacy and spirit” live on through the Jackie Robinson Foundation. The organization helps academically gifted students of color attend college, as well as provides them with leadership development skills.
“This award confirms what we knew that Jackie stood for,” she said. “He was a heroic role model for all Americans.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is presented for distinguished achievements in institutions such as the military, public service, art, exploration, science and sports. Past recipients include: George Washington, Winston Churchill and Rosa Parks.
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