Muhammad Ali was one of the most significant influences in my life, at a difficult time in my life (late 1960’s). Approaching my 18th birthday, when I would have to decide what I was going to do about registering with the Selective Service System, I saw Muhammad Ali take a very public, very unpopular stand against the Vietnam War.
“Under no conditions do we take part in war and take the lives of other humans.”
“It is in the light of my consciousness as a Muslim minister and my own personal convictions that I take my stand in rejecting the call to be inducted. I do so with the full realization of its implications. I have searched my conscience.”
“Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong…they never called me nigger.”
It was very clear what the consequences of that decision could be, and yet he would not be persuaded to change his position, knowing he was jeopardizing his boxing career.
I was impressed by his clear vision of the universal struggle of every person for peace and freedom, and every person’s responsibility to the world community, no matter their religion, race or country.
He helped me make my decision to refuse to participate in the draft, and therefore, the Vietnam War. And continued to be an inspiration in the days that followed.
Rabbi Michael Lerner delivered a powerful speech about Muhammad Ali and his moral power at Ali’s funeral.