By Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson
With the passing of the larger than life sports personality, Muhammad Ali, the world has lost more than a great boxing champion. We have lost a remarkable human being whose life was laced with courage, dignity and grace. While his athletic talents had long since passed, his face was recognized on every continent in the world, from the largest cities to the smallest villages. He was more than a citizen of a single country. He was, in fact, a citizen of the world.
The meaning and dimensions of his life have helped to shape the very mosaic of the 21st century. His inner light illuminated the hearts, the minds, and the souls of men, women and children the world over. He lived a transformational life with vision at its core.
Muhammad Ali once said that a person who views the world at 50-years of age the same as they did at 20-years of age has wasted 30 years of life. He was a wise and purposeful man, a son of the South, who rose to the pinnacle of a sport that brought him fame and wealth. Despite his success it appeared that he was in pursuit of something else, something far more valuable than money, fame, regular mention in the headlines of newspapers or a gallery of friends.
He often said that those who are not “courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” The risks that he took inside and out of the boxing ring were numerous, from refusing to enter the draft for the Vietnam War which caused him to be stripped of his title and banned from boxing while in his prime, to exposing his body to more than 20,000 punches from his opponents throughout his historic career.
During the course of his life, Muhammad Ali struggled with the direction of his nation, and some of its citizens struggled with him. Yet, as time passed and his compassion for others and his battle for social and economic justice emerged, he became a national and international hero.
We may never see the likes of Muhammad Ali again. Yet we must never forget all that he stood for, and the manner in which he engaged with us and the world. I am grateful that he chose to live and work amongst us as he did. We are a better people, a better nation, and a better world because of the life and influence of Muhammad Ali.
Congresswoman Johnson represents the 30th Congressional District of Texas.