Aaron: Icon of Perseverance

Baseball Legend Will Address Seniors Today, Offering Lessons on the Value of Hard Work

"Just because someone graduated from Harvard doesn't mean they will have any more than anyone else," he says. "They will still have to work as hard as anyone else."

Aaron recently came to Harvard for a reception at Mather House.

"We extended the invitation [to the Mather House reception for Aaron to] share his views and experiences with us as a symbol of American achievement and to discuss, as he did during his speech, the importance of persons of different racial and cultural backgrounds working together to improve racial understanding among students and faculty," Counter says. "We saw fit to honor him for his outstanding contribution to American sports and intercultural relations."

Rags to Riches

Aaron's contribution to racial understanding may be the result of his nurturing family background.


Aaron was born in Mobile, Alabama, on February 5, 1934, the third oldest of eight children.

"I had a very happy childhood," Aaron says. "I came from a very poor family, but my mother and father gave me the love and support that I needed to be successful."

Aaron attended school through high school, but did not pursue his education after he graduated from Central High School in Mobile in 1952, instead focusing full time on his baseball career.

He says he began playing baseball as a young child.

"I played in the city recreational league as a little kid," he says. "I just played in the parks and watched the older kids and that's how I picked up a lot--by watching the older kids."

Aaron says he was not the best player when he was young, but that he worked very hard.

"I applied myself and had a lot of confidence," he says. "I felt that given the opportunity, I could play as well as anybody."

When Aaron first began to play baseball as a youngster, there were no Blacks in the major leagues.

"I had to kind of wait for Jackie Robinson to break the barrier," Aaron says.

Robinson became the first player to break the color barrier in professional baseball when he signed with the Montreal Royals, a Brooklyn Dodger minor league team in the International League on October 23, 1945.