At the beginning of the World Series of 1947, I experienced a completely new emotion, when the National Anthem was played. This time, I thought, it is being played for me, as much as for anyone else. This is organized major league baseball, and I am standing here with all the others; and everything that takes place includes me.
About a year later, I went to Atlanta, Georgia, to play in an exhibition game. On the field, for the first time in Atlanta, there were Negroes and whites. Other Negroes, besides me. And I thought: What I have always believed has come to be.
And what is it that I have always believed? First, that imperfections are human. But that wherever human beings were given room to breathe and time to think, those imperfections would disappear, no matter how slowly. I do not believe that we have found or even approached perfection. That is not necessarily in the scheme of human events. Handicaps, stumbling blocks, prejudices — all of these are imperfect. Yet, they have to be reckoned with because they are in the scheme of human events.
Whatever obstacles I found made me fight all the harder. But it would have been impossible for me to fight at all, except that I was sustained by the personal and deep-rooted belief that my fight had a chance. It had a chance because it took place in a free society.
I look at my children now, and know that I must still prepare them to meet obstacles and prejudices. But I can tell them, too, that they will never face some of these prejudices because other people have gone before them. And to myself I can say that, because progress is unalterable, many of today's dogmas will have vanished by the time they grow into adults. I can say to my children: There is a chance for you. No guarantee, but a chance.
* * * *
I believe in the human race. I believe in the warm heart. I believe in man's integrity. I believe in the goodness of a free society. And I believe that the society can remain good only as long as we are willing to fight for it — and to fight against whatever imperfections may exist. My fight was against the barriers that kept Negroes out of baseball. This was the area where I found imperfection, and where I was best able to fight. And I fought because I knew it was not doomed to be a losing fight. It couldn't be a losing fight-not when it took place in a free society.*
Dreams rode on your shoulders, man. You forever changed the face of the game, and the minds of a nation. We owe you a world of thanks for your gifts.
The White House is paying tribute to Jackie Robinson's legacy today by hosting a tee ball game on the South Lawn featuring teams from Brooklyn’s Inner City Little League, and the Wrigley Little League of Los Angeles (the two cities that the Dodgers have called home, and where Robinson spent his entire Major League career.) Each of the Little Leaguers will wear the No. 42, Robinson's jersey number, which was retired** a decade ago to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Robinson breaking baseball's color barrier.
* Robinson's "This I Believe" essay was delivered in 1952. You can listen to a tape of it here
**No. 42 was the first and only number to be retired by all the teams in the MLB. Mariano Rivera (who plays for the MFY) is the only active MLB player who still wears the number. Upon Rivera's retirement, No. 42 will rest in perpetuity with Jackie Robinson, the man who did it proud.
Posted by Portia