Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Today is Jackie Robinson’s 94th birthday.
There’s a million things to say about Robinson, a four-sport athlete at UCLA and one of the more important figures in the history of baseball.
It’s well-known that Robinson broke barriers; hell, teachers in elementary schools make it a point to remind us of the dark times that this nation has had to overcome, and how men like Jackie Robinson contributed significantly in pulling this country out of such darkness.
As a Latino, it is without question that UCLA best embodies my interest as a member of a minority group that has been largely marginalized, especially in the past decade. With countless groups advocating for Latino students, many undocumented, this university has done nothing but promote greatness and instill an urgency to help one another, sending the barriers that divide our nation straight to hell.
This is what UCLA is about. While our many disciplines and our rich athletics tradition may vary in form of impact, there’s no doubt that the thought, the goal — achieving greatness — extends well beyond the classrooms, well beyond the playing field. Jackie Robinson exemplified this notion that, while other schools may produce great performers in their area, no school, no university produces game-changers like UCLA.
Broken barriers occur because schools like UCLA — and there are very few of them — promote progress, growth, and equality. Had it not been for the level of support Robinson received from the university to break down barriers, to strive for the unconventional, to go against the grain, there might not have been a Civil Rights Movement in the public sphere of sports.
And while most fans like to keep sport and politics separate, Robinson broke that barrier, too, showing that instead of using the platform given to him to entertain, that he use the platform given to him to change the world. Countless other athletes and academic products have proven that, throughout this nation’s history. Look no further than Ralph Bunche, who was the first person of color to receive a Nobel Prize for his diplomatic work in the Middle East. Look no further than today’s world, where UCLA footballers Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe use the platform of professional football to overcome extreme opposition to fight for gay rights, backlash be damned.
That’s what this nation is about and this university — the University of California in Los Angeles — is making sure this nation lives up to its high standards.