Sunday, June 5, 2016

"What You Are Thinking About, You Are Becoming," RIP Muhammad Ali - 1942-2016, Louisville Hero

From The Good Days At The Brown School, Louisville, Kentucky
(A Photo Still Hanging In My Office)
In 2005-2006, two students of mine, Jonica and Miles, were selected as youth leaders in the city of Louisville in commemoration of the Muhammad Ali Museum that was built down the street from the Brown School, where I taught, on the corner of 1st Street and Muhammad Ali. The year before, another student - Jamal - and I were invited to be at the Muhammad Ali Museum Grand Opening event as presenters. I was chosen as a teacher ambassador and he was selected as a youth advocate. In my tuxedo, I welcomed Ali's family (beautiful, stunning individuals) to their dad's museum), and the jet-setters, trustees and investors, royalty, and movie stars that flew into Louisville to tour the facility before it opened to the public. I memorized a speech about Ali's use of poetic language and discussed his vibrant character and contributions, not only as an athlete, but as a human being of Louisville. I performed my small part over and over again, and it was exciting. I was in the presence of magic the entire evening.
"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." Muhammad Ali
After the museum tour, Jamal and I were invited to the Kentucky Center of the Arts for a special tribute to Cassius Clay, a graduate of Central High School and a legend for the last 60 years, not only for the Bluegrass State, but for the entire world. I stood behind Patrick Henry Hughes while he played the piano and everyone entering the red carpet came by him to have a photo taken. It was during this evening, too, that scandal broke out (it wasn't Jim Carrey who couldn't make it), but because of the debut of Brad Pitt with a strange woman at his side - it wasn't Jennifer Anniston! He brought Angelina Jolie to the event, and the paparazzi went nuts. Tabloids were all over it the next day.

I didn't stay in Louisville too many years after, but when my family visited, we toured the facility that sits proudly on the Ohio River and down the street from the school. They polished the museum since its premier and it is a tremendous dedication to the man. I recommend it to anyone who ever finds themselves in Derby City. I cherish my fortune for having such a connection to such a legend, if only in a blink of an eye. Somewhere on a flash drive, too, are photos of the event when I wasn't as gray as I am today.

I thought a lot about the boxer and personality yesterday as I spent the day doing yard work and then simply chilling on my back patio by the grill. Towards the end of the evening, too, I had chance to cuddle with a kitten, which seemed to be symbolic for the day as a whole. Ali was fierce and that can never be denied. But the museum does a remarkable job showcasing his fuzzier side, too - the family man, the political figure, the husband, and the contributor to a better world.

From this point on, I will see any shooting star that sparks across the sky as evidence of Ali's ferocity in the heavens. They truly gained a hero up there, and I am thinking of the City of Louisville this weekend as it mourns. May the skies above flash symbolically tonight.

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