Over forty years after he burst upon the scene as a gold-medal winner at the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Muhammad Ali remains a magical figure, known and loved throughout the world.
As a boxer, Muhammad brought unprecedented speed and grace to his sport, while his charm and wit changed forever what the public expected a champion to be. His accomplishments in the ring were the stuff of legend. But there was always far more to Muhammad than what took place in a boxing ring.
Muhammad’s life and career have been played out as much on the front pages of national and international newspapers as on the inside sports pages. His early embrace of the Nation of Islam and his insistence on being called Muhammad Ali instead of his “slave name,” Cassius Clay, heralded a new era in black pride. His refusal to be inducted into the United States Army anticipated the growing antiwar movement of the 1960’s.
Traveling across continents, he has hand-delivered food and medical supplies to such needy sites as the Harapan Kita Hospital for Children in Jakarta, Indonesia; the street children of Morocco; and Sister Beltran’s orphanage for Liberian refugees in the Ivory Coast, to name just a few.
At home, he has visited countless numbers of soup kitchens and hospitals. He has helped such organizations as the Chicago-based adoption agency, The Cradle; the Make-A-Wish-Foundation; the Special Olympics’ organization Best Buddies; Herbert E. Birch Services, an organization that runs a school for handicapped children and young adults, in addition to a summer camp for children infected with AIDS; and “Fight Night” which generates funds for the “Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center” at Barrow Neurological Institute, in Phoenix, Arizona. At the State Capitol in Michigan, he advocated new laws protecting children. In schools across America, he taught children the virtues of tolerance and understanding through his book HEALING. Muhammad has perhaps raised more money for American charities than any other living person.
Muhammad has been the recipient of countless awards. In addition to being honored by Amnesty International with their “Lifetime Achievement Award,” the Secretary-General of the United Nations bestowed him with a citation as “United Nations Messenger of Peace.” He was also named the “International Ambassador of Jubilee 2000,” a global organization dedicated to relieving debt in developing nations. Former President Jimmy Carter has called Muhammad “Mr. International Friendship.”
In November of 2005 he and his wife Lonnie co-founded the Muhammad Ali Center in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, USA. The Center’s mission is to preserve the Ali legacy for future generations through educational programming, its on-site cultural visitor experience and global outreach. The Ali Center appeals to the heart, spirit and imagination by inspiring both children and adults to form new commitments in their lives in areas of personal growth, integrity and respect for others, and to provide them the tools to make these commitments happen. Please visit www.alicenter.org for more information.
Muhammad and Lonnie are also very active in the Muhammad Parkinson Center (MAPC) at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona -- which provides diagnostic and treatment services, research, education and support for those whose lives have been touched by Parkinson’s disease. The Alis have helped raise $52 million for the cause.
The Alis currently divide their time between Louisville, Kentucky, Berrien Springs, Michigan and Paradise Valley, Arizona.