THE EDITOR: As the United States and the rest of the world said farewell to “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, I kept wondering how many libraries and schools across the country bothered to put up displays to educate our very young people who was this giant of a personality.
Now, no, he wasn’t a Trini and yes, he was by no means perfect – not that the Western ideal of moral perfection is realistic anyway. But much of his life and struggles, particularly those outside of the ring, can be held up as models to a generation immersed in a selfishly individualistic, defeatist eat-a-food culture.
Here was a man who took and rigidly maintained a position not to participate in what ultimately was an illegal war in Vietnam. This caused deep divisions among the African American community that historically fought just for the right to fight so as to be accepted – or so they thought – as US citizens. It made him more reviled by those who already took deep offence to his brash, vocal self-confidence and conversion to a marginalised group and religion. He maintained this, though professionally and personally it cost him dearly. How many major sports and entertainment personalities today possess the moral courage to do what he did?
Further, apart from his faith, Ali celebrated his Africanness while at the same time seeing the Almighty in every face, regardless of colour. His defiant confidence inspired millions across the globe and in a society where our deep self-contempt reflexively pulls down the people we have who dare stand on principle, this is an opportunity our schools and libraries should not miss.