Nov 30, 2015

Visit the Mohammed Ali Museum in Louisville, Kentucky

When John and I were in Louisville, Kentucky a friend suggested
we visit the Mohammad Ali Center. Truthfully, I wasn’t interested in visiting a museum devoted to a boxer but the museum was a wonderful surprise. The museum is located on the waterfront in a three-story building with a unique design. The tour starts on the third floor with a five-screen multimedia presentation called “If You Can Dream.” It provided an overview of Ali’s life and explained his six core principles: confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving, and spirituality. It lays the groundwork for understanding Ali and the museum’s displays. Not only does it preserve the legacy of Mohammed Ali but inspires people to release the greatness within. 

Mohammed Ali certainly displayed confidence which caused some people to consider him an egotistical braggart.  And, I guess, he was but it becomes more understandable when I learned that Ali’s self-esteem and demeanor gave new confidence to black Americans during the Civil Rights era. Changing his name from Cassius Clay to Mohammed Ali makes
perfect sense when he explains why, not the least of which was the fact that Cassius Clay was a slave name. And, of he became a Muslim because he said, “The word 'Islam' means 'peace.' The word 'Muslim' means 'one who surrenders to God.' But the press makes us seem like haters.” I like his quote, “Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams - they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do - they all contain truths.”

Ali was right when he said, “After me there will never be another Mohammed Ali.” He always carried a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If,” in his wallet for inspiration. I had to rememorize in school. I reread it and it certainly has thoughts to live by. Ali is known for touting his boxing prowess with his now famous quotes: “The Greatest,”  “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” and “If you even dream of beating me you'd better wake up and apologize.”

One of the aspects of Ali’s life that I knew nothing about was his dedication to helping others. Ali is known as one of the greatest boxers of all time but his humanitarian side has received almost no press coverage; in part because he believes that charitable acts are a human obligation and should not be bragged about or broadcast. He said, “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”  The Giving Pavilion gives an insight to this aspect of his personality. In 1998 Mohammed Ali was appointed UN Messenger of Peace. He spoke out against Apartheid and “… brings people from all races together by preaching "healing" to everyone irrespective of race, religion or age.”  He has supported relief and development initiatives and has hand-delivered food and medical supplies to hospitals, street children and orphanages in Africa and Asia.

While John and I were there I watched a group of seventh grade students as they learned the aspects of “The Greatest.”  I could tell they were impressed but the part they enjoyed the most was the interactive exhibits where they could try their skill with the punching bag and learn basic boxing techniques from the video by Ali’s daughter, Laila.  His professional career is highlighted by a video projected on a full size boxing ring. Today his fight continues as he battles Parkinson’s disease.