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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions S. 300

Location: Washington, DC

S. 300. A bill to award a congressional gold medal to Jackie Robinson (posthumously), in recognition of his many contributions to the Nation, and to express the sense of Congress that there should be a national day in recognition of Jackie Robinson; to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I am proud to join today with my good friend Senator McCain to introduce our bill to award Jackie Robinson the Congressional Gold Medal. Bestowing upon Jackie Robinson this great honor recognizes not only his stunning athletic accomplishments but also his profound contribution to the advancement of civil rights in the United States.

Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born on January 31, 1919, in Cairo, GA and was the youngest of 5 children. Robinson attended the University of California at Los Angeles where he lettered in football, basketball, baseball, and track, and he was widely regarded as the finest all-around athlete at that time. After a three-year stint in the U.S. Army, Jackie Robinson began playing professional baseball, at first in the American Negro League. Then in 1947, in a historic move that ended decades of discrimination against blacks in baseball, Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to sign a Major League Baseball contract. That same year he won the National League's Rookie of the Year Award. In 1949, he was voted the National League's Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers Association, and in 1962, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Jackie Robinson's signing to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 is so significant because it came before the United States military was desegregated, before the civil rights marches in the South, and before the historic ruling in Brown v. The Board of Education, and it engaged the American people in a constructive conversation about race. Off the field Jackie Robinson was a business leader, a civil rights leader, and a human rights leader. As one of the most popular people in America, in one poll in 1947 he finished ahead of President Harry Truman, General Dwight Eisenhower, General Douglas MacArthur, and Bob Hope, finishing only behind Bing Crosby, Jackie Robinson encouraged the fair treatment of all people. His ideas and principles influenced some of America's greatest politicians, including John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower.

Jackie Robinson was more than a sports hero he was an American hero. And it is time for Congress to recognize his heroic contributions. On January 31, 2003 on what would have been Jackie Robinson's 84th birthday, a seminar entitled "Red Sox Tribute to Jackie Robinson" was held at Fenway Park in Boston. During that tribute Larry Lucchino, President and CEO of the Boston Red Sox, aptly summed up Jackie Robinson's off-field contributions to American society. He said, "Martin Luther King once said that he could not do what he was doing unless Jackie Robinson had done what he did."

I urge my colleagues to join us in honoring this great American by cosponsoring our bill to award him the Congressional Gold Medal.

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