There's Great Then There's The Greatest

Ali truly made his days count
Athlete, advocate, activist, altruist, Ali. The Greatest.

At a time when hyperbole is far too common, especially in written (social media) communication, we just lost one of the few who not only deserved, but demanded superlatives and nothing said about him was exaggerated. Muhammad Ali may have passed form this world last night at the age of 74, but his presence and impact will never be lost.

Every generation has its sports heroes, and each argues over whether theirs is better than the ones before or after, but though Ali's days as an athlete may have been too early for me to consider to be of 'my' generation, his work after the ring continued to create inspiration and aspiration.

Just as some of the music legends we have lost this year, his many accolades are to be found across all forms of media, form all levels of society, across the globe. From his stance against the Vietnam War to living with and fighting against Parkinson's, and of course his work for racial equality he was an incomparable human being, a truly Great Man.

When possible, I like to use the words of others far greater than me to inspire my fellow Milwaukee men towards greatness such as my Be Great page with many quotes by men from scientists to philosophers to leaders. But Ali, with his poetic mind and voice, was a one-man quote machine whose words were truly inspiring. Sure there were his poetic diatribes about his work in the ring, "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee", but again it was his words outside the ring that had the biggest, most profound impact.

Here are a few of my favorites, words to remember and celebrate Ali by:

  • "Don't count the days, make the days count."
  • "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."
  • “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.”
  • "My principles are more important than the money or my title."
  • “Friendship … is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
  • “A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
  • “If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”
  • “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it—then I can achieve it.”
  • "Age is whatever you think it is. You are as old as you think you are."
  • "Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong."
  • "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."
  • “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.”

Finally, despite his name, changed to Muhammad Ali from Cassius Clay when he converted to Islam, many people overlook his religion. To me its a good thing that he was just Ali, not Ali the Muslim. In his death maybe who he was and what his religion was will be remembered. Maybe it can help inspire people to understand the everyday Muslim, the non-radical Muslim that lives among us all across the world, including right here in America.

RIP Muhammad Ali, the Greatest.


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