As long as I can remember hearing the name Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali, I have always admired him. Over the years, I have collected books and photos of this man of unique name and stature. As a kid, I was always fascinated with his skill in the ring, his wit before a fight and his courage through it all.
Like many of you, I remember the day when Ali announced that he was not going to fight in the Vietnam War. This came out of the blue and was a shock to most of us, and it was the first time that some people were seeing the social, religious and political side to Ali. He was clearly no longer Cassius Clay and now the world knew it.
He made this decision in the prime of his career, and he put his personal and religious beliefs ahead of his fame, fortune and ambition. That is when he became a hero to me. And it was not because he didn’t want to fight for his country, but because it became clear to me that he was truly a man of deep conviction. He was willing to give up EVERYTHING to honor his truth. One may not have agreed with him, but you certainly had to respect him. The Supreme Court exonerated him three and a half years later.
I had the pleasure of being in his company years ago in New York, and I can tell you first hand he loved people.
Muhammad Ali, thank you for being the greatest champion of all time: a champion of honor, duty and courage. You will never be forgotten.