REMEMBERING MUHAMMAD ALI
The recent death of world acclaimed humanitarian and former three-time heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammad Ali, at the age of 74 years, triggered a flood of news articles, online essays and television specials dedicated to the memory of this great man. His biography has become the stuff of legend, but let us also remember that he had his flaws – he could be vainglorious, impulsive in ways that proved hurtful to those around him. He committed adultery, could be petty and bullying, and had an enormous ego he didn’t always hold in check. But, he would not be the only celebrity or athletic champion who could be accused of this sort of behavior. Sports Halls of Fame are full of such people. Cassius Marcellus Clay, nee Muhammad Ali is an icon not because he possessed these weaknesses, but because he rose above them to become someone greater, someone stronger. Let us never forget that this amazing three time world heavyweight champion was also the man of peace who was, at one point, a special ambassador for the United Nations; who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Freedom from the President of the United States, the highest award any American citizen can receive from his government; the man who helped to negotiate the release of American hostages during a tense Middle East crisis; the man who lit the torch to signal the beginning of the 1996 Olympics, even though his body had, by then, been ravaged by Parkinson’s Disease. But in that one moment, Muhammad Ali, reminded the world that physical disabilities may limit the human body, but they need not have dominion over the human spirit. He was a loving father and a doting grandfather. He loved and was loved by a wonderful wife and traveled the world in her company, reminding everyone where ever he went that the true measure of manhood lies not in the number of victories achieved or accolades received, but in his ability to maintain a strong, purposed family even in the face of forces all around him that could easily tear a family apart. Muhammad Ali never ceased to demand more of himself as a man, and as we watched him work to answer that challenge, we could find ourselves asking similar questions about our lives and about our place in this world. As he changed, we could also change. And that, at the end of the day, is his wonderful gift. That is what makes his glorious and wondrous history, well worth remembering.