Flying like a butterfly and stinging like a bee takes practice. It is a bit of a dance coupled with great timing. Risking all of one’s accomplishments and putting it all on the line to stand up for your values takes courage and boldness. Muhammad Ali, a young poet did these with a smile and a sense of humor that led to victories long before he entered the boxing rings of his life.
The ‘greatest of all time’ helped lead a generation of Americans to take license and draw their own line in the sand by his role-modeling. Bringing goal-directed persistence, exceptional behavior modulation and even greater mental flexibility led to his titles while his poetic oratory sprinkled a different way to practice chivalry awakening many of his skin color to shake off the slumber of degradation in a time when civil rights, including the equality of man and the pursuit of happiness for many Americans were being fought for. Muhammad Ali was a poet and father who became an American hero for holding his stance on the issues of the day giving license to multitudes of African-Americans to follow suit.
Gone were the days of sitting by quietly and feeling ‘lesser than’ as the descendants of four hundred years of slavery. These being replaced by a new tenacity to affirm the God-given, inalienable right to make a living and be at peace. Muhammad Ali was a boxer, a father and a wordsmith who was able to charm a culture with his presence. More than what he did, it is who he was from which his persona emanated from radiantly. His punch speed was as famous as the eloquence he used to subdue his opponents outside the ring. Most of the time the other boxers he was set to fight were dumbfounded for words, never able to know how to adequately respond to the colossus.
Ali had set himself apart as an independent thinker and champion of civil rights at a moment of great strife and tension in our land. He was stripped of titles and derided when he refused to fight in a war he did not believe in (Vietnam) and was convicted for this in court ready to be sent to prison, though he saw no jail time.
What he brought to the forefront was remarkable in that he “shook the world” repeatedly, positively disrupting the very threads that make our American quilt, (Obama). Muhammad Ali was a lean, fighting machine, yet he was not mean. He was the greatest boxer that ever lived yet he retained humility and was easy to approach. His celebrity did not make him haughty, but he used his it to
bring about as much justice as possible from his vantage point. He did not go ‘quietly into that good night,’ nor did he rage against the dying of the light, but exercised grace and poise throughout his time on earth, (Dylan Thomas). For this and much more he is revered as All-American. He passed away Saturday, June 3rd, 2016, but he lives on in our minds and hearts.