WASHINGTON -- While Sharon Robinson now serves as the vice chairperson of the Jackie Robinson Foundation and as an educational consultant for Major League Baseball, her roots lie in the healthcare field.
So it was a natural fit for the former nurse and midwife, who is the daughter of barrier-breaking Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, to serve as the special guest speaker at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield's event on Thursday night at the JW Marriott Hotel. The organization's annual reception celebrated the successes of CareFirst Commitment, a not-for-profit health plan that helps provide affordable and accessible services to communities in Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia.
"It's like coming home to be with your people," Robinson said after giving her speech. "The work I do with baseball is just an extension of the healthcare and nursing I did for so many years. But you just know when you're around people who get it, just like you do. So it was very, very cool for me."
Robinson also has a strong connection to Washington, as she received her bachelor's degree from Howard University in 1973 and worked in the area. She praised the progress made by CareFirst, which just in the past year dedicated almost $57 million to local programs and services assisting vulnerable communities.
Robinson spoke for about 20 minutes and took some questions from the audience. She touched on her work with MLB and her foundation, as well as her background, the influence of her father and memories from her childhood, including the time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. came over to the family's home.
Sharon described a family dinner in 1963, during which Jackie told his children to make their future families a priority while also finding work they loved. On top of that, there was to be a "family mission," which meant getting involved in the fights for civil rights, social change and economic justice.
"We don't have jobs. We have missions," Sharon told the audience, each of whom received a signed copy of her book, Jackie's Nine. "And therefore, our lives are very satisfying. I'm sure I speak for all of you that there is nothing better than coming home tired but having made a difference in even one person's life that day."
Jackie wasn't the only family member who made a significant impact on the course of Sharon's life. She also talked about how her grandmother "indoctrinated" her into nursing, pushing her strongly toward two goals: becoming a nurse and marrying a doctor.
"I satisfied one of her wishes," she quipped.
Jackie was supportive of her career choice, although he never pushed her down a particular road. When Sharon was in her senior year at Howard, Jackie came to Washington, and the two went out to dinner. Sharon told him about her plans to go to medical school.
"And he said, 'I don't care if you go to medical school or not, but the fact that you have such self-esteem that you can see yourself continuing to grow is wonderful to me,'" Sharon said after her speech.
It has been a busy year for Sharon and the rest of her family, including her mother Rachel. The movie "42," about her father's life, hit theaters in April, and that meant traveling around the country attending numerous events and screenings. She also came to Washington then, for a screening at the White House, an experience she treasures.
Now that things have calmed down a bit, she has time for events such as Wednesday's.
"I don't get to do this much at all, so this was a special treat for me, especially in a city I'm so connected to and have such deep roots in," she said.
Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @HitTheCutoff.