The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

The Greatest

I was born to a father who was a Golden Gloves boxer in the Navy and when my younger sister and I would fight, he would have us don boxing gloves, mouth pieces and head gear and have us go at it in the living room. We would swat at each other and laugh instead. I joke that it was a good thing that even then,  I was a pacifist, since I could have developed a mean right hook. As a mentor of sorts, who ran a Sunday morning breakfast club, he would also teach boxing to the kids at our synagogue. That being said, I’m not a big boxing fan, but I do admire the athleticism, endurance and discipline it takes to step into the ring and then step out of it  in one piece.  One of the most notable fighters of the modern era is Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. His entry into the sport began when, as a 12 year old, his bike was stolen. He was told by a local police officer that if he wanted to face whoever took it, he’d better learn how to fight. I don’t know if he ever got his wheels back, but that one pivotal event set him on a trajectory that gave him world wide notoriety, not only as a boxer, but as a social and political activist and philanthropist. He was a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam war which cost him his title and kept him out the ring for three years. His conversion to Islam, bringing about the name change, made waves.


His current battle is with Parkinsons Disease, but he keeps on keepin’ on.

One thing that always impressed me about Ali was his steadfast belief in himself and his abilities. His line “I am the greatest!” initially sounded like arrogance to me when I heard him utter it while in my teens. Now, as an adult who coaches, counsels and encourages people to see their own greatness, it is a rallying cry. See, if Ali had said or even thought “Hey, maybe someday, I could sorta, kinda be a halfway decent boxer….”, what do you think the chances are that he could have stood up to Frazier, Liston, Foreman and Holmes? The thing is, not only did he have the bravado and the words, he had the skills to back them up. He acted ‘as if’ it were true and it became his chosen reality.


Since retiring from boxing, he remains an active philanthropist, opening the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and has also been an advocate for the Special Olympics and the Make a Wish Foundation. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work in developing countries. In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He says:  “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given,” he said. “I believed in myself and I believe in the goodness of others,” said Ali. “Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.”

What greatness are you willing to proclaim to a waiting world? Born For Greatness by Jana Stanfield

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