Robinson awarded Congressional Gold Medal Award
Reid delivered the following remarks at a ceremony presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to Mrs. Rachel Robinson, the widow of baseball great Jackie Robinson today:
“I grew up in Searchlight, Nevada – a tiny mining town in the Southern tip of the state.
“Searchlight sits in the middle of the desert, and in the late 1940s and early 50s, it was about as far as you could get from Brooklyn, New York and the base paths of Ebbets Field.
“As a kid growing up, there wasn’t a lot for me to do in Searchlight. No Parks. No high school. No movie theatre.
“But we did have our radios and the baseball “Game of the Day.”
“I looked forward to this broadcast, and even remember the disappointment I felt after I tuned in some afternoons, only to hear it was raining in some far off city and there would be no game that day.
“The radio brought some of the greatest names in baseball to Searchlight, including Jackie Robinson and his Brooklyn Dodger teammates.
“I was a Cleveland Indians fan growing up, but still remember Jackie and the Dodgers…Roy Campanella catching…Gil Hodges on first…Jackie on second… Pee Wee Reese at short…Billy Cox at third…Furillo, Snider and Hermanski in the outfield….On the mound – guys like Roe, Newcombe, Erskine, and Branca.
“To give you an idea of how much baseball meant to me growing up, I can still recall listening to certain games – even one Dodgers game where Jackie stepped up to the plate with two outs and two on in the bottom of the 9th. He hit a Texas Leaguer and the Dodgers won the game.
“Jackie came thru in the clutch.
“If all Jackie had been was an outstanding baseball player who inspired young people from New York to Nevada, we might not be honoring him today – as there have been other baseball players who inspired kids. But as you’ve heard, he was so much more than just a baseball player.
“As I look back on my childhood in Searchlight, Jackie Robinson’s impact on me went beyond what he did in any Major League baseball stadium.
“Because along with giving me something to dream about on summer afternoons in the Nevada desert, Jackie Robinson brought the Civil Rights movement to my hometown — not with speeches or demonstrations — but by example.
“While he was playing second base 2,500 miles away in Brooklyn, he was also opening minds and reshaping attitudes in rural Searchlight and towns just like it across America.
“He was once again coming thru in a clutch situation.
“This was such a big deal. As he played the game of baseball and the game of life, he proved to me that skin color did not matter.
“Jackie Robinson brought – in his own way – the lessons of equality to Searchlight and the nation, and in doing so, helped open our eyes to Dr. King and the others that followed him.
“This is a contribution that can’t be measured with statistics or put in a Hall of Fame, but it lives on in each of us and grows stronger as we move closer to a country that lives up to its founding creed.”