“The Greatest of All Time,” Muhammad Ali, left us this past Friday, June 4th.  Ali died at a Phoenix-area hospital, where he’d spent his last days being treated for respiratory complications.

I lost my hero.

Muhammad Ali, when he opposed being sent to fight in the Vietnam War, publicly stated: “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”

When Ali opposed the Vietnam War, he was publicly hated for it.  But it didn’t matter in the long run.  He’s still “The Greatest.”

I lived through it.  In the 60s, when they took Ali’s title from him because he would not support the war, he was hated by the media, by the status quo, by the government, by the workers.  They were sending him to prison.  But what a bold and brave statement he was making. If you weren’t doing it out of your own free will, the government was going to make you go to war.  Is that not slavery in itself?

It’s a bit ironic that he’s been elevated to God-like status following all the negative coverage of him during that time.  He always deserved much better than the way the media and status quo treated him during those days.  I knew him well enough to know that.

Ali gave up the greatest title in the world and stood up for his convictions.

When I went to visit him in his home, I noticed that, on his mantle in his living room, he placed the Bible and the Quran side-by-side.  One was given no preference over the other.  Just side-by-side, right above the fireplace.

That’s Ali for you: he's bigger than just a Muslim or Christian. He crosses the barriers of religion; he's bigger than religion itself. Ali is, and will always be, universal.

He’s my guiding light. I look up to him.  I learned from him, and opposed the Iraq War.  I was hated for it too, but at least I was in the “Greatest” of company.

And I continue to apply that thinking today.  As I move forward in the golden years of my life,I’ll always say to myself, “What would Muhammad Ali have done?”

Rest in Peace, Muhammad Ali. 

-Jesse Ventura


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