Last week they buried my hero Cassius Clay better known as Muhammad Ali. As a teenager I boxed too only I was never as good as him. He was the greatest, an unimaginable athlete, a spectacle of majesty in the ring. He was so much more than a boxer for he was a man of faith and principle. He became a conscientious objector against the war in Vietnam and bore the brunt of the ire of the American establishment. As President Clinton said at his funeral he was a man who wrote his own life story, touching a multitude of people. In the ring and as a person he understood power. He recognised we all have the power to choose and this ability is what gives us our power; when we don’t recognise we become victims, we feel helpless and blame others for our circumstances.
Muhammad Ali’s second half of life was maybe an even greater inspiration than the first. For 35 years he had Parkinson’s disease and yet he never became the victim of his illness; it did not define him as he was always much greater than that. It did not stop him in his humanitarian work, motivating people, teaching empowerment and reaching out to everyone who came into his orbit. Sure, it slowed him down a bit but he never stopped giving. He never forgot the power of choice.
Next week all of us in the UK have a choice, a very important one, as it will define us for a long time to come. On one side we have – self interest, and the unwillingness to change or share. It is like someone in a marriage who doesn’t understand the relationship and is wanting to walk out if they do not get what they want instead of putting family first. It is the side of opportunistic power grabs, bad haircuts and fear. It always amazes me that people who complain of being powerless in the EU believe they can lead the rest of us in the restoration of power. Then there is the cosmic joke of people not wanting Scotland to leave the Union but wanting us to leave the Union.
On the flip side we are being asked to give up our victim story – how others have taken from us, usurped our power. This is the side of relationship, of mutuality, partnership and a willingness to work towards a common goal. Sure the EU is far from perfect but like any meaningful relationship it takes work, dedication and the willingness to change. As long as we share a common goal it is all achievable with friendship and co-operation. I am reminded of my saying for the year which is:
“If you want to go fast go alone,
if you want to go far go together.”
I think we want to go far for the sake of our children and the world in 30 years plus.
I believe Muhammad Ali would have voted REMAIN. He was no quitter in the face of any boxing opponent or the most debilitating illness. He was literally the Champion of the World, a fighter who was a man of peace. He was a great humanitarian who seemed to see deep into the souls of those around him and always found the best in others as he gave the best of himself. He will be missed and hopefully his life will continue to inspire us all to step up and become champions in our own lives. He makes me proud to be an ex-boxer, a man and he inspires me to be my best in all situations. He was a loving and lovable human being.
Long Live Muhammad Ali.
“Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!”