JACKIE ROBINSON -- (Senate - April 16, 2007)
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Mr. McCONNELL. Madam President, when I was a youngster, I became a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers for two reasons. One was because of Jackie Robinson. The distinguished majority leader was just referring to his history-making appearance in a Major League uniform for the first time. The other was for a Louisville teammate of his named Pee Wee Reese. He was the one who made, really, a kind of public display of welcoming Robinson amid some of the boos and catcalls he got in the early games when he first played.
Reese went over and put his hand on Jackie Robinson's shoulder. Since he was from the South, I think it was an indication that Robinson was certainly going to be accepted by his teammates and by the rest of the league shortly thereafter and certainly ought to be accepted by the fans as well.
It was a period during which the character of people was being measured; the character of Jackie Robinson in being willing to take on this challenge and tear down this barrier for the first time in American history, and the character of those with whom he was going to be playing. Would they accept him or would they not?
It was a great Kentuckian, Pee Wee Reese, who made it clear that Jackie Robinson was going to be accepted. It was the beginning of a great thing that our country did and, of course, was a breakthrough for many of the subsequent developments that occurred over the years in improving race relations in our country. We are proud to honor the memory of Jackie Robinson.