Athletes, politicians, entertainers and millions of other people around the world are remembering Muhammad Ali fondly after his death Friday at age 74.
Yet it’s also worth recalling that the former three-time heavyweight boxing champion was hated throughout too much of the United States early in his life.
He resisted the draft during the Vietnam War. He was boastful, in and out of the ring.
President Barack Obama’s statement Saturday on Ali’s death included this powerful, long-ago passage from the boxer: “I am America. 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.”
Many African Americans revered Ali during the civil rights movement. He represented minorities who used their mental and physical skills to overcome prejudice aimed their way.
The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled in Ali’s favor on resisting the draft, landing him on the right side of history. However, the legal battle cost him some of the best years of his life as a boxer.
One of the best places to see the stunning breadth of Ali’s life and the positive legacy he left is the Muhammad Ali Center in his hometown of Louisville. It tells of his extensive humanitarian efforts to promote peace, respect, hope and understanding among people worldwide.
What Ali fought for will live on long after the death of this remarkable American.