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Bush with Rachel Robinson
*On This date in 2005, Jackie Robinson was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal. This happened more than half a century after he broke baseball's color barrier.
President George W. Bush gave Congress' highest honor to Robinson's widow, Rachel Robinson, in a stately ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate and the commissioner of major league baseball looked on. Bush said “His story is one that shows what one person can do to hold America to account to its founding promise of freedom and equality. It's a lesson for people coming up to see. One person can make a big difference in setting the tone of this country.”
Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus added “He knew he was a symbol and a barrier-breaker, and that staying the course would have consequences for millions of people to come.” The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor the legislative branch can bestow on a civilian and must be co-sponsored by two-thirds of members in the House and the Senate. Robinson is only the second major league baseball player ever to get the award. The first was Roberto Clemente, in 1973.
The House approved legislation in January that could have made Robinson ineligible for the honor by restricting posthumous medals to a 20-year period beginning five years after a person's death. The legislation, which arose from concern that the distinction was being diluted by overuse and also limited medals to two a year, has not yet been approved by the Senate.