Bill Clinton photo

Remarks in Queens Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson's Integration of Major League Baseball

April 15, 1997

Thank you very much. Ladies and gentlemen, Mrs. Robinson, members of the Robinson family. It is hard to believe that it was 50 years ago at Ebbets Field that a 28-year-old rookie changed the face of baseball and the face of America forever. Jackie Robinson scored the goahead run that day, and we've all been trying to catch up ever since.

Today I think every American should say a special word of thanks to Jackie Robinson and to Branch Rickey and to the members of the Dodger team who made him one of their own and proved that America is a better, stronger, richer country when we all work together and give everyone a chance. And today I think we should remember that Jackie Robinson's legacy did not end with baseball, for afterward he spent the rest of his life trying to open other doors and keep them open for all kinds of people. He knew that education, not sports, was the key to success in life for nearly everyone, and he took that message to young people wherever he went. I congratulate Rachel Robinson for continuing that mission through the work of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which has given hundreds of young people a chance to build the life of their dreams.

I can't help thinking that if Jackie Robinson were here with us tonight, he would say that we have done a lot of good in the last 50 years, but we can do better. We have achieved equality on the playing field, but we need to establish equality in the boardrooms of baseball and throughout corporate America. And we need to make sure that, even as we celebrate his brilliant successor Tiger Woods' victory in the Masters, we need even more of our young people from all walks of life to get their master's degrees and help to make more of their lives in this country.

And he would remind us—look around this stadium tonight—that as we sit side by side at baseball games, we must make sure that we walk out of these stadiums together. We must stand for something more significant even than a grand slam home run. We ought to have a grand slam society, a good society where all of us have a chance to work together for a better tomorrow for our children. Let that be the true legacy of Jackie Robinson's wonderful, remarkable career and life.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Mrs. Rachel Robinson.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:39 p.m. at Shea Stadium. In his remarks, he referred to Branch Rickey, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, and professional golfer Tiger Woods.

William J. Clinton, Remarks in Queens Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson's Integration of Major League Baseball Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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