Legendary boxer and Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Century, Muhammad Ali, passed away last Friday.
Ali was that rare athlete whose impact transcended his sport, and whose popularity was worldwide. In fact, during the seventies, Ali was probably better known around the globe than most (all?) politicians.
In addition to his achievements in the ring, Ali was also admired for his refusal to submit to conscription, and his willingness to serve time in federal prison and forfeit his heavyweight championship.
As a leading opponent of the military draft, it is not surprising that Campaign for Liberty Chairman Ron Paul is one American who admired Ali's stance. Dr. Paul spoke about his admiration for Ali on the House floor during a debate on a resolution honoring Ali.
Dr. Paul's remarks are available here and below:
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding this time to me.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Res. 58. I saw Muhammad Ali as a man of great courage, and I admired him for this, not because of the courage that it took to get in a ring and fight men bigger than he, but because of his stance in 1967.
In 1967, he was 25 years old. He was the heavyweight champion of the world, and for religious beliefs, he practiced what Martin Luther King made popular, civil disobedience, because he disagreed with the war. I thought his comments were rather astute at the time and were not complex, but he merely said, I have no quarrel with the Viet-Cong. He said the Viet-Cong never called him a name, and because of his religious convictions, he said he did not want to serve in the military. He stood firm, a man of principle, and I really admired this as a quality.
He is known, of course, for his athletic skills and his humanitarian concerns, and these are rightly mentioned in a resolution like this. But I do want to emphasize this because, to me, it was so important and had such impact, in reality, what Muhammad Ali did eventually led to getting rid of the draft, and yet we as a people and we as a Congress still do not have the conviction that Muhammad Ali had, because we still have the selective service; we say, let us not draft now, but when the conditions are right, we will bring back the draft and bring back those same problems that we had in the 1960s.
I see what Muhammad Ali did as being very great. He deserves this recognition, but we should also praise him for being a man of principle and willing to give up his title for 3 years at the age of 25 at the prime of his career. How many of us give up something to stand on principle? He was a man of principle. He believed it and he stood firm, so even those who may disagree with his position may say at least he stood up for what he believed in. He suffered the consequences and fortunately was eventually vindicated.
Tags: Ron Paul, the draft, Muhahumad Ali