Thoughts from the executive
December 05, 2013
The Jackie Robinson Family YMCA joins a mourning global community after the transition of Nelson Mandela. There can be no greater loss than that of a loved one. The impact "Madiba" had on his nation and the world might have made him one of the most loved leaders we will have ever known in our lifetime. The way he served and loved others made it easy.
Mandela said "Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people." Jackie Robinson, an ocean away, believed "There's not an American in this country free until every one of us is free." The irony to this collective impact is that Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 - only six months before Robinson on January 13, 1919.
There are so many parallels between the two. Both shared a love for family, freedom, and sport. And, against all odds, they stood strong with courage, grace, and kindness. The biggest difference, Nelson Mandela spent his heaven doing good on earth until the age of 95. Jackie Robinson was called to be with the Lord on October 14, 1972. He was 53.
There is no evidence that the two crossed paths. I can only wonder what might have happened if they did.
Robinson responded to Presidential civil rights comments amid continuing controversy over school desegregation efforts in Little Rock, AR, and the South. In September 1957, Governor Orval Faubus had ordered the Arkansas National Guard to prevent entry of nine African American students into that city's Central High School. President Eisenhower reluctantly sent U.S. troops to enforce the school's integration. From his position as a prominent executive of the Chock Full o'Nuts Corporation, Robinson continued his advocacy of social justice.
With apartheid ruling Mandela's South Africa, he said "I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days." This fight led to his life-sentence shortened twenty-seven year imprisonment from 1962-1990. This fight led to the end of apartheid and Nelson Mandela being elected President of South Africa four years after his release from prison.
Mandela showed forgiveness to those that persecuted him. Robinson stayed between the lines when battling those that did not want to see baseball's color barrier broken. They gave all they had because they believed in life and through their head, heart, hands, and habits God smiled on the earth through the ways they served others.
Now, it's our time to continue living our lives in that same blessed spirit.
"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." ~Nelson Mandela
Tell their story. Tell the children.