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Muhammad Ali: January 17, 1942 – June 3rd, 2016


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From David Anthony Hohol…

Today a small piece of me passed away. Very few times in life do people have the chance to witness real heroism and true bravery. Muhammad Ali was man who gave us both. He was a genuine hero to me from the youngest of ages and I was blessed to have had the chance to witness at least part of what was an amazing life – a truly global life that influenced so many the world over. He will always be the Greatest of All Time. The world simply does not produce many like him and he will be missed by all those he touched. I miss him already.

Born on January 17th 1942, Muhammad Ali’s part time job was being the 3-time heavyweight Champion of the world. In reality, he was a politician, a diplomat, a social activist, a poet and a living breathing inspiration to people around the globe. Before or since, there has never been an individual who has fused sports and politics to such incredible depths, reaching unimaginable heights in the process. When this writer was just a young boy, I read the following words from Ali in a newspaper story. Immediately thereafter and forever since, I’ve been enthralled by the man:

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.”

Although I was old enough to witness his recapturing of the heavyweight crown from Leon Spinx, Ali’s career was already winding down when I discovered him.  That being said, I became a student of history, watching documentaries, reading books and talking to both my father and grandfathers about a man who somehow became so very important to small town Canadian farm boy not yet ten years old. As I began to make my way through my teens, I slowly came to realize the political landscape Ali so daringly traversed in his day and he roused my independent spirit even more. By the the time I grew into a man, I found myself standing before the life of Muhammad Ali in awe.

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The following is an Ali quote after being stripped of his boxing license in 1967 for refusing induction into the Army in protest against the Vietnam War. Keep in mind blacks were not even allowed to vote in America until 1960 and segregation was still commonplace in many parts of the country at this time:

 

“I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain’t going no 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other poor people. If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fightin’ you, if I want to die. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice. You my opposer when I want equality. Want me to go somewhere and fight for you? You won’t even stand up for me right here in America, for my rights and my religious beliefs. You won’t even stand up for my rights here at home.”

I remember feeling goose bumps when I watched the grainy video of Ali walking out of the courtroom and ranting, unrehearsed and off the cuff, challenging the status quo, unafraid to be who he was, and living out loud what he believed. I was inspired not to box, (although I did for a time) but to stand up for myself, to say what I wanted, to do what I wanted, and to be what wanted to be. He came of age in a time of change and was not afraid to be suffer the consequences of chasing after it, of pioneering it, of being the living embodiment of the change he wanted to see in the world around him. How can one not be inspired by his story?

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Below, minus the two epic quotations above and in no discernible order, are ten memorable Muhammad Ali Quotes. Every single one of them transfers beyond the ring and into the very human experience of living life . What a giant of a man he truly was, the likes of which we will never see again.

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  1. Only a man who knows what it’s like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win.”
  2. “You lose nothing when fighting for a cause … In my mind the losers are those who don’t have a cause they care about.”
  3. “The man with no imagination has no wings.”
  4. “Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.”
  5. “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”
  6. “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”
  7. “He who’s not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life”
  8. “To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.”
  9. “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have the skill, and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.”
  10. “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion’.”

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Gentleman Obama


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iftarThese days it’s rare to get an even handed account of American politics and its geopolitical interests, both domestic and foreign. The American media, more than ever before, is slanted to one side or the other. Perhaps, more than any other branch of the media, FOX news is simply laughable in its daily attempts at slandering President Obama. Liberal pundits have retaliated with over the top character assassinations of their own. Simple diplomacy and respect in American Politics is at an all time low.

Only a few days ago, in an unprecedented incident, republican Joe Wilson yelled out “You lie” at Obama in front of the entire congress, as his president delivered a speech on Health Care to the nation. Others are likening him to Hitler and the Nazis. I mean really, what’s happening to the dignity of American politics?

Obama’s presidency sits at the core this volatile atmosphere, as there are those that simply despise the fact he is the American President. Obama is cut from a cloth so far outside what has always been “presidential” many Americans feel a sense of near agony at the very site of him in the oval office. Black, of mixed race, the son of a Muslim from Africa, blue bloods across the country are boiling over. Since he’s taken office he’s been “accused” of being a Muslim in disguise, of being born outside the states and of even being a “secret” terrorist.

Fox News recently called him a racist, a man who hates white people and white “culture.” His health care reform has been linked to senior citizen extermination, a speech asking kids to stay in school out of patriotic duty was called brainwashing, and the list goes on from here. Believe me, there are people in America who wake up each day seething over the fact that Obama is the President. It eats at them in way that feels as though they are slowly dying, in effect, because they are.

The simple fact the Barrack Hussein Obama is President of the United State speaks volumes about how the out-dated and simplistic mindset of 1950s America is slowly fading away. But make no mistake, the remnants of segregation and racial superiority still linger and is crying out from its deathbed.

It was only in 1960 when black people were finally granted the right to vote. Before that they were considered less than American, and for some less than human. The leftovers of this toxic generation still remain. Some, albeit the minority, have successfully transplanted their poison onto the next generation.    

By extension, the media, easily manipulated and blindly consumed by so many, is running rough-shot over truth. Simply put, the media landscape is cluttered with the stench of lies and manipulation and like a hardening cancer is metastasizing across the planet.

Through it all, Obama’s respectful and diplomatic approach has been stalwart. From the onset of his presidency, he has taken special care to eradicate the international stereotypes of the Arab World.  Since 9/11 the Arab community has become a magnet for stereotypes and misconception and as a result, often feels America doesn’t like them, doesn’t understand them, or worse still, doesn’t respect them.

George W. Bush did more to alienate the Arab world than any President in American history. Many Arabs will tell you this had less to do with the invasion of Iraq and more to do with Bush’s ignorance of the region and disrespectful demeanor. His cocky mannerisms and his self-involved, black-and-white kindergarten mindset is best exemplified in his now infamous statement, “You’re either with us, or with the terrorists.”

 When the latest president of the United States took his oath of Office, Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a Muslim of African decent, the Arab world held its collective breath. Who would have thought only a few shorts years after 9/11 a man bearing the name Hussein would become the American Commander-in-Chief? Arabs, as they often do, waited to see just how the latest president would conduct himself in terms of the Middle East, but this time with an air of hope and anticipation. Surely, no matter what he does, he won’t be as bad as the Bush was the common consensus. This far, for the most part, Arabs have been satisfied.

Obama, if nothing else, has been respectful. Further still, he’s shown both knowledge and tact. In other words, good old fashioned manners go a lot further than people think. His first visit to a Muslim country was Turkey. One of the most significant moments of President Obama’s trip to Istanbul was his visit to Ataturk’s Mausoleum. Declaring his wish to strengthen relations between the USA and Turkey, Barack Obama said he supported “Ataturk’s vision of Turkey as a modern and prosperous democracy giving hope to its people and providing ‘peace at home, peace in the world.” All Bush did in Turkey was ignorantly insult the entire country by calling it an “Islamic Republic.” Turkey is not and never has been an Islamic republic. As highlighted by RELATIVITY OnLine’s Turkey correspondent Serife Turkoglu in her article “An American President in Istanbul, the second article of the Turkish Constitution clarifies this by stating, “The Turkish Republic is a nationalistic, democratic, secular and social state, governed by the rule of law, and based on human rights.”

Obama took things a step further when, in his first visit to an Arab country, he opened his speech in Egypt with the traditional Islamic greeting “Assalamu Alaikum.”

I’m not sure if any American president ever addressed a room full of Arab Muslims in such a manner before. The reaction was boisterous and immediate. This seemingly simple gesture brought many in the audience to their feet and the room broke into spontaneous applause. Later, on the first day of this year’s Ramadan, the equivalent of the Easter for Christians or Hanukah for Jews, Obama sent out a web address saying “to Muslims in America and all around the world, Ramadan Kareem.”  

On September 2nd Obama hosted an Iftar dinner at the White House. The name for the meal used to break the daily fasting throughout the month of Ramadan, many in the Arab world were touched at the thought of seeing one of their most special rituals hosted at the home of the American President.  During Obama’s speech, he referred to the Muslim community as part of the very fabric of America and special part of the country. Could anyone out there even begin to imagine George W. Bush doing the same?

Respect and acknowledgment, that’s all there really is to it. It’s funny how all those things our mothers told us when we were just kids continue to ring true… even in the vast and complicated world of geopolitics.  

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