In January, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the forty-fourth president of the United States. Expectations are high not just because he is the first black president, but because he has promised change, and represented a break with the last twenty-eight years of a political move to the right. But it will not be quite fair to expect President Obama to bat 1.000 or even .500 when it comes to keeping every promise or solving every problem. Let us look at what parallels exist between Barack Obama and Jackie Robinson, the major-league baseball player who broke the color line in sports and changed America forever.
Jackie Robinson was born January 31, 1919 in Cairo, Georgia, and debuted in the major leagues when he suited up for his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers on October 10, 1956. His overall batting average was .311, he scored 1518 hits and 137 home runs. The Dodgers were the only team he ever played for in his 10-year major league career (1947-1956), something that is almost unheard of nowadays. He won many awards during his lifetime, including Rookie of the Year and MVP, but the most remarkable and singular recognition was posthumous. On the fiftieth anniversary of his first major league game, all major league baseball teams retired number 42.
What similarities exist between these two extraordinary men, Barack Obama and Jackie Robinson?
Raised by a single mother.
Jackie's father left in 1920, and his mother moved to California to raise her son alone. Barack Obama Sr. walked out on his young family when he left to continue his education at Harvard in 1962. While the Robinsons were sharecroppers and the Obamas were scholars, this one common experience has to have marked both boys deeply.
Moves in childhood.
Jackie was born in Georgia, but after his father left the family, he and his mother moved to California. Obama Jr. was born in Hawaii, but spent some early years in Indonesia where his mother studied anthropology and married her second husband.
While it is hardly necessary to list all of Jackie Robinson's sports achievements, it may not be commonly known that he lettered in four sports while in John Muir High School: football, basketball, track, and baseball. He also played tennis (decades before Arthur Ashe) and jumped the broad jump. Obama plays basketball almost daily and once entertained hopes of playing that sport professionally.
Inspired a popular song
Robinson was the inspiration for a popular song, "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" Obama inspired a 2007 hit titled, "I Got a Crush on Obama" by Obama Girl.
Robinson spent his years after retiring from baseball as an activist for social change. While working as an executive for Chock Full O Nuts coffee and restaurant company, he helped establish Freedom National Bank and served on the board of the NAACP. The Foundation established in his name doles out scholarships and sponsors mentoring programs. Obama is well-known for the time he spent as a community organizer.
Many of the biggest stars in entertainment, sports, and politics have huge, winning smiles. It is hard to dislike anyone who can turn on such a megawatt grin. We tend to warm ourselves in the rays of such a smile, which seems to have spiritual qualities all its own. Who is the biggest star that basketball ever had? Michael Jordan. Joan Baez's father often told her she had a million-dollar smile. The Kennedy brothers, Jack and Robert, both had winning, toothy smiles, as did the former peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia, Jimmy Carter.
Self-control, aka character.
Robinson was admonished by Dodgers club president when he signed Robinson to the farm club, that he must restrain himself from lashing out at any racial comments or other racially-motivated attacks. Robinson had to master himself to endure the inevitable hostility and discrimination; he had to just let his bat do the talking. His bat shouted; he led the league with a .349 batting average plus a .985 fielding percentage. (He did, however, criticize hotels that refused him a room with his teammates. Some hotels and restaurants were shamed into integrating, so Robinson knocked down barriers in more than just sports.) Similarly, Obama had to resist being drawn into answering horrid racial incidents with angry outbursts. Some McCain rallies featured monkey toys. A GOP convention sold Obama waffle mix with a Jemima-like cartoon figure on the box. But Obama did not stoop to acknowledge the existence of these racist incidents.
The coming four years will have to fill in the rest of the story about any parallels between these two giants who have knocked down walls that blocked achievements for members of their race. It is a chapter to this intriguing story that we look forward to with eager anticipation.
Barack Obama smile -- http://farm1.static.flickr.com/209/523880344_23faf1a0f8.jpg
Jackie Robinson smile -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:JackieRobinson1945.jpg
Michael Jordan smile -- http://users.chariot.net.au/~byoung/jordan/jordan37.jpg
Joan Baez smile -- http://cache.gettyimages.com/xc/53448002.jpg?v=1&c=ViewImages&k=2&d=17A4AD9FDB9CF1939847EC77F5F8D1CE0CBB2D68F5D9B66FA40A659CEC4C8CB6
Jack Kennedy smile --http://www.graphology.it/wp-content/uploads/portrait014.jpg
Jimmy Carter smile -- http://transition2008.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/jimmy_carter_wikipedia.jpg
Julia Roberts smile -- http://www.aolcdn.com/red_galleries/teeth-julia-roberts-400a071807.jpg
Jackie Robinson bio in Wikipedia -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Robinson
Obama Girl song on YouTube -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKsoXHYICqU
Jackie Robinson song on YouTube -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcahLxfaAIk