Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Great...and The Greatest

Happy Birthday to Muhammad Ali, who turns 65 today.

In commemoration of the boxing and humanitarian legend's milestone, the wire ran this photo, taken at the Vatican in 1982. I had no idea that these two iconic figures of the culture, both globetrotting messengers of peace and goodwill among peoples, both of whom were eventually to suffer the ravages of Parkinson's, ever met. It's immediately become one of my favorite shots.

When I was 14, I got to see Ali on the road at a sports trade show and wept at the sight of the legend, still there, but stripped of the ability to speak above a whisper. In his time, like another athletic figure who bestrode the world stage moved by the strength of faith, he "put his chapter in the book" by using his gifts of conviction and charisma to effect change, to speak truth, and to put everything he had on the line to make it happen.

The champ once said that "God don't want me to go down for standing up!" On another occasion, he mused that "Every man wonders what he is going to do when he is put on the chopping block, when he's going to be tested."

And when that moment comes for each of us, may we receive the grace to succeed in it as he did.