Jackie Robinson comes to the White House as First Lady hosts talk on '42'
April 2nd, 2013
08:29 PM ET
9 years ago

Jackie Robinson comes to the White House as First Lady hosts talk on '42'

(CNN) - "We think that everybody in this country needs to watch this movie," gushed Michelle Obama, as scores of students from across the country joined her in the State Dining Room of the White House Tuesday.

The film she had just seen was "42," based on the life of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in modern Major League Baseball. And her respect for the moment in history was not lost.

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"You're left just asking yourselves, how on Earth did they live through that?" she wondered about the tumultuous time of the pre-civil rights era of the 1940s and 1950s. "How did they do it? How did they endure the taunts and the bigotry for all of that time?"

The first lady hosted an interactive student workshop at the White House to discuss the movie. Among those joining her on stage was actor Harrison Ford, who plays Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey in the movie.

"This film gives the audience the experience of being there. The experience of feeling viscerally what it was like to meet the challenges that Jackie and Rachel faced," said Ford.

The Rachel that Ford speaks of is Rachel Robinson - the baseball hero's widow. Her husband died in 1972 at age 53. She served as a consultant as the movie was being developed.

Robinson was also present at the White House and was candid when she told high school and college students in attendance that America is on its way but isn't there just yet.

"We have made great social progress in America, but we still have a lot of work to do," she said.

Robinson added that she's hopeful the movie will keep people - especially young people - striving to reach their maximum potential. "It will inspire many of you to think about your own lives and do what you can do with the opportunities that come your way," she said.

The first lady emphasized that there are things many Americans may not be aware of when it comes to Jackie Robinson. "Jackie Robinson certainly was a tremendous athlete," said Obama. "But he was so much more than that. He bravely served in our armed forces. He attended college at UCLA."

The First Lady also told the students in attendance that Rachel Robinson was a strong and independent person in her own right.

"Rachel Robinson was in every way his equal, ladies - in every way his equal. She made her education a priority. She worked hard in school. She eventually became a nurse."

Obama closed her speech by telling the students that discrimination is still present in our society but what matters is how we respond to it.

"You must get your education and demand more of yourself every single day," she said. "You have to pick up yourself when somebody knocks you down - because you will get knocked down. But to do all of that, you have to put the work in."

The movie "42" opens nationwide on April 12.

Filed under: Michelle Obama
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. IvotedforObama

    Uh Oh. Black First Lady has the nerve to talk about a black baseball player. Well we all know this will set off the racist GOP.

    April 2, 2013 09:04 pm at 9:04 pm |
  2. Chris

    Yes Michele, Everyone needs to watch a movie about African American success. How about you do something constructive and help old hubby focus on key issues.

    April 2, 2013 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  3. Bob

    There was no rap in Jackie's time and there shouldn't have been rap in this movie. Will not watch.

    April 2, 2013 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  4. Hal Atosis

    Too bad the movie tends to skip over the part that he broke the "color" barrier in Canada playing for the Montreal Royals. Like Argo, the director didn't let the truth get in the way of a good story.

    April 2, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  5. buongiorno


    April 2, 2013 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  6. Woman In California

    I have always admired the late Jackie Robinson (what a great role model) however, Mr. Robinson for obvious reasons, held a lot of anger in and I feel it ultimately lead to his early death. Sometimes, you just have to let it out and let go of it.

    Jackie Robinson

    April 2, 2013 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  7. Mz

    Let's see how long before people start posting some overly political or borderline racist things on this innocuous article.

    April 2, 2013 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  8. panorain

    It was really nice of Michelle to refer the White House during her speech as "The People's House." Plus she was also nice enough to invite schoolchildren from several different schools to get the opportunity to go to the White House and see the inside. And apparently they didn't even have to donate any money to any political causes either! Not $100,000, which is the normal rate. Or even $10,000 which is the discount rate. Or even any admission fee at all. Very gracious of her.

    April 3, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  9. panorain

    It was very nice of Michelle to refer to the White House as "The People's House. Plus she also invited schoolchildren without even asking for the usual contribution! So maybe a two-tier system can really work. For the people who can afford to ante up they get the full tour. Then people who are useful for photo-ops can visit for a lot less.

    April 3, 2013 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  10. Dave

    After the press conference, Obama announced that the number 42 will be retired forever. In its place will be a heiroglyph much like the one Prince used when he changed his name. The White House is accepting submissions for the replacement.

    April 3, 2013 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  11. Peten

    Don't forget Pee Wee Reese, as a teammate and mentor to Jackie, the Kentucky Colonel who befriended and stood by him. Others raised their fist Pee Wee offered hIs hand

    April 3, 2013 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  12. freedom

    So when are they going to open the White House doors to the people of this country – not just the select few that are invited. It's not your house, Michelle Obama. You're just a temporary occupant. It's the people's house!

    April 3, 2013 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  13. Movies! Yay!

    I work for WB. I haven't seen the film yet but am super excited to see an endorsement from the first lady!

    April 3, 2013 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  14. Marie MD

    It's amazing and sad how many athletes, including Blacks, that don't know what Robinson went through to give them their opportunity at spots.
    Should be a good movie to remind us that some of us have come a long way, or were never really there to start with, and others live in the South!

    April 3, 2013 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  15. Catmandew

    Instead of concentrating on the job of fixing their screw ups the first family is busy plugging some Hollywood movie for their friends. No wonder our country is failing, he is busy campaigning and obviously tryin to wear out Air Force One and she is busy plugging movies for their friends.

    April 3, 2013 09:03 am at 9:03 am |