Muhammad Ali truly represented the best of the human spirit and what we can become with hard work and determination. He was more than one of the greatest athletes of our time, he was someone who taught us that being skilled or talented at something wasn't enough to make one great or to accomplish one's dreams. He taught us you have to not only stand up for what you know to be true but speak out when you see injustices.
People like Ali aren't born every day and his ultimate return to the ring was symbolic, not just of an evolution in the governing framework of America, but also of Ali himself. While he continued to display a brash demeanor, he seemed kinder, more magnanimous. At the end of his career, beaten and weakened by a few thousand blows too many, Ali retired with a grace that would have been uncharacteristic in the young Cassius Clay. While he was humbled by the early onset of Parkinson’s — a disease that would plague him until his death 30 years later — he accepted it with the resignation of someone who had finally come to trust in the will of a higher power. He realized that all he accomplished, both his challenges and his triumphs, served a greater purpose. And that was what made him truly a transcendent figure, not just in the world of sports, but also as an American ambassador of peace, good will, and true greatness.