Why Muhammad Ali was indeed the greatest

Why Muhammad Ali was indeed the greatest
June 05 01:52 2016

By Barack Obama

Muhammad Ali was The Greatest.
 Period. If you just asked him, he’d
tell you. He’d tell you he was the
double greatest; that he’d
‘handcuffed lightning, thrown
thunder into jail.’
But what made The Champ the
greatest—what truly separated
him from everyone else—is that
everyone else would tell you
pretty much the same thing.
Like everyone else on the planet,
Michelle and I mourn his passing.

But we’re also grateful to God for
how fortunate we are to have
known him, if just for a while; for
how fortunate we all are that The
Greatest chose to grace our time.
In my private study, just off the
Oval Office, I keep a pair of his
gloves on display, just under that
iconic photograph of him—the
young champ, just 22 years old,
roaring like a lion over a fallen
Sonny Liston. I was too young
when it was taken to understand
who he was—still Cassius Clay,
already an Olympic Gold Medal
winner, yet to set out on a
spiritual journey that would lead
him to his Muslim faith, exile him
at the peak of his power, and set
the stage for his return to
greatness with a name as familiar
to the downtrodden in the slums
of Southeast Asia and the villages
of Africa as it was to cheering
crowds in Madison Square
Garden.

‘I am America,’ he once declared.
‘I am the part you won’t
recognize. But get used to me—
black, confident, cocky; my name,
not yours; my religion, not yours;
my goals, my own. Get used to
me.’
That’s the Ali I came to know as I
came of age—not just as skilled a
poet on the mic as he was a
fighter in the ring, but a man who
fought for what was right. A man
who fought for us. He stood with
King and Mandela; stood up
when it was hard; spoke out
when others wouldn’t. His fight
outside the ring would cost him his title and
his public standing.

It would earn him
enemies on the left and the right, make him
reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali
stood his ground. And his victory helped us
get used to the America we recognize today.
He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic
in the ring, he could be careless with his
words, and full of contradictions as his faith
evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even
innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans
than foes—maybe because in him, we hoped
to see something of ourselves. Later, as his
physical powers ebbed, he became an even
more powerful force for peace and
reconciliation around the world.

We saw a
man who said he was so mean he’d make
medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting
children with illness and disability around the
world, telling them they, too, could become
the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch,
and fight his greatest fight of all on the world
stage once again; a battle against the disease
that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the
spark from his eyes.
Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the
world is better for it. We are all better for it.
Michelle and I send our deepest condolences
to his family, and we pray that the greatest
fighter of them all finally rests in peace.