As many of you already have heard, Muhammad Ali passed away earlier today. He was an inspiration to many, and on so much more than just a “fighting” level. Yes, he was a boxer, and an incredible one at that, but he was also a human rights advocate. The battles he fought were conducted in more arenas than a boxing ring.
He stood up for equal rights, and publicly spoke out against racism in a time when it was dangerous to do so. He refused to participate in the Vietnam war and encouraged others to do the same. Although Ali was a a man of violence inside the ring, he worked non-violently for peace and justice outside of it. He was an inspiration to countless individuals, myself included.
If you mention Muhammad Ali, one thing will come to mind about his personality- he had a very flamboyant and egotistical manner of speaking. He had a reason for being that way, and it might not be what you think. Of course, he was the greatest boxer of his time (and probably all time) so he mentioned that fact whenever he had the chance.
But, he also used his fame and eccentricity to publicly denounce the amount of money being funded for war, the mandatory involvement in the Vietnam war, racism, and militarism. Ali spoke about the relation of the federal taxes he paid and his disagreement with how the U.S. government was disbursing those enormous funds, by saying,
“I buy a lot of bullets, at least three jet bombers a year, and pay the salary of fifty thousand fighting men with the money they take from me after my fights.”
Muhammad Ali refused to participate in the Vietnam war, even after being told that defying the draft would cause his career to fall apart, and probably land him in jail. Part of that turned out to be true. In 1967 Ali was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison. The decision was overturned in 1970, and after spending 3 years in prison, Ali was reinstated as the world heavyweight champion by the World Boxing Organization. This is what Ali said when he was asked to explain his stance on the Vietnam war,
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?
No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation.
This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars.
I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality.
I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”
Pretty powerful words, especially considering the era in which they were said. The following are some of my favourite inspirational quotes from Muhammad Ali. I hope you find them as helpful in your life as I have in mine.
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
“I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.”
“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”
“Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”
“Often it isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the little pebble in your shoe.”
“What you’re thinking is what you’re becoming.”
May your rest be a peaceful one, great warrior.
By Raven Fon