Our Nation lost a great American and a National treasure when Muhammad Ali died on June 3, 2016. His fans called him “The Greatest”, usually speaking of his boxing prowess. I argue that he was also the “Greatest” when it came to his humanity and his love and concern for his fellow man. He was a role model that we should all strive to be like.
It is important to acknowledge all aspects of the man known as Muhammad Ali, and not just his ability to box. Ali started his boxing career at the age of 12 in Louisville, KY, and continued to his retirement in 1981. He had 56 winds (37 by knock out) and 5 losses. He became the heavyweight champion of the world on 3 separate occasions. He won a gold medal is the 1960 Olympics. He surely could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”.
As important as his boxing career was his service to his fellow man. Ali was acknowledged as an Ambassador for Peace in 1985 and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987. He focused his efforts on service to others. He stated, ”Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” We should all emulate Ali in this regard.
Muhammad was a very spiritual man. He became a member of the Nation of Islam in 1964. In 1975 he became a Sunni Muslim. He believed that religions all have different names but they all contain the same truths. He was very accommodating when it came to different beliefs, but he knew that there were certain “truths” common to all religions.
His life was not without controversy. He refused to be drafted at the age of 26, citing religious reasons to forego military service. He is quoted as saying “I ain’t got no quarrel with those Vietcong”. He was stripped of his heavyweight title as a result of his refusal. His conviction was overturned on appeal many years later.
Ali inspired millions to do their very best, and he did this by personal example. Ali reminded folks “if my mind can conceive it and my heart can believe it, I can achieve it.” Ali lived by his set of core principles, which included confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality. He declared, “The more we help others the more we help ourselves.”
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984 but never let the disease slow him down. He stated, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Ali continued his life of service to others up to his death.
We can all learn from the life of Muhammad Ali. Always do our very best. Never let our circumstances get us down. Always focus on serving our fellow man. Stand up for our personal convictions. Be a person of principle. If we do this, Ali’s impact will continue for decades to come.