Say what you will about Muhammad Ali he had a strong commitment for what he thought was right.
Ali held such thoughts not just for himself, but for others throughout the world. Neither the loss of his freedom nor the loss of his life was too high of a price for him to pay for sticking to his beliefs, such as refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.
One of Ali’s most well-known quotes was: “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 simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.”
He stated, “If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. 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.”
Ali was arrested on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing titles. The conviction was overturned in 1971, but not before he went four peak-fighting years without a professional battle in the ring. But it didn’t stop him.
Ali died Friday at age 74, following a 30-plus year battle with Parkinson’s disease. The symptoms of the disease – the tremors, the loss of speech – were never enough to keep him out of the public eye. It was as if he knew that when he carried that Olympic torch, even with his broken steps and movement, that he was an international beacon of light for justice and humanity.
There was much that Ali had — a gold medal, notoriety, fame, money – that he was willing to surrender for justice and integrity.
His decisions and lifestyle drew the ire of many people, and not just whites. Many Blacks of his time as well thought that Ali often overstepped his place. But he knew right where he was supposed to be, and often, where we should be as well.