Growing up as a child in the early eighties, our parents were our heroes. We wanted to be big and strong like them and thank God we did. As we grew, we realized that our parents had heroes too even though our minds were too small to comprehend why heroes had heroes.
In learning the ways of our heroes, we became acquainted with the hero of our heroes. His name was Muhammad Ali – a cocky, intelligent, funny, motivational, fast-talking, rhyme-making champion with a heart of gold who redefined self-confidence, principles, skill and discipline to new levels.
We read the great stories about how his ascension to the pinnacle of boxing elevated the sport to a new level. We about his conversion to Islam and how he became one of its greatest ambassadors in America and the world. We read about how his principled refusal to be drafted to fight in a war he didn’t believe in just almost cost him his professional career. We read about the “thriller in Manila”, “the rumble in jungle” that heralded his return as the Champion and couldn’t help but wonder if these exploits were human.
We learned of his battle with Parkinson’s and how he never let it diminish the fire he carried within him his whole life but dedicating his life as a legit role model for all who looked up to him and today, we woke to the sad news of his passing.
As we reflect on the life and times of Muhammad Ali, we must recognise the tragedy of coming generations who may never have heroes like we had to aspire to. We must realize the sad possibility that never again may we have a more unifying figure in a religiously divided present who’s life story was the story of struggle, tolerance, understanding, peace, hard work and triumph to inspire us.
This is why the memory of great men and what they stood for must be preserved at all costs to be a moral compass for future generations.
Thank you Muhammad Ali…for the gift of your talent and personality; for being The Hero we looked up to; for being the Greatest of them all.