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Obama and Jackie Robinson

Posted: 10/27/08 05:10 PM ET

Watching Barack Obama on the stump and particularly in the debates reminds me of Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. When Branch Rickey brought Robinson to the majors, he had to be more than a great player to make my beloved Brooklyn Dodgers. He promised Dickey, the Dodgers General Manager, that he would endure the expected wave of racism that would wash over him. From the beginning, Jackie Robinson endured all manner of insult and affronts with a poise that was extraordinary. His inner strength was needed as much as his ability and talent on the diamond. His Herculean effort changed baseball and society. Senator Obama came out of political nowhere to the United States Senate and an improbable run for the Presidency. Many of us were aware of his intellect and the soaring oratory inspiring people in a way that wasn't heard of for decades. As his campaign gained traction, his integration of the internet into his campaign was amazing. Most of all, in his youth and speeches he reminded many of us of a time we knew as Camelot in our political memory.

I held my breath wondering how he would respond as he became a contender and began to face the uglier attacks of a political campaign. Barack Obama remained cool. His speeches and remarks were filled with promise and not anger. One political commentator suggested that Obama, in his speeches, appeared to be the least aggrieved black man in America.
Barack Obama's cool and calm responses to the not so subtle charges ranging from his associations to his middle name were remarkable. As the economy tanked he remained poised. Commentators started to describe his demeanor as presidential. I saw another great man who had that extra something that the great Jackie Robinson had.

Branch Rickey loved the scorecard. It recorded only what a player did, not where he came from, his race or his ethnicity.