10 September 2018

Learning from a legend: The Life of Muhammad Ali

As a history teacher and a sports fan, there is a lot to love about the life of Muhammad Ali. There is also an enormous amount that our students can learn by examining the attitudes that Ali took both into the ring as well as those that shaped society in the 20th Century.

Many media outlets are producing lists of Ali's most famous quotes such as, 'Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee' and 'I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.' These quotes focus on Ali's stellar career that saw him develop a worldwide following and a legacy in boxing that is largely unrivaled.

Yet, Ali was much more than a quick tongue and knockout blow. Ali was a vocal activist for his generation representing some of the most powerful movements within civil rights that led to real change.

The reality for Ali was hard, even after winning an Olympic gold medal for boxing in 1960, he was denied service in an American Diner who did not serve African Americans. More shocking is the resulting action; Ali threw his gold medal off a bridge into the Ohio River. This story was later disputed, yet his courage to speak up against what he believed to be injustice is a powerful example of not accepting a breach of an individual's rights.

Most famously, Ali was stripped of his heavy weight title after becoming a conscientious objector to the national draft to fight in the Vietnam War.

There is one Ali quote that our students can really draw from and take into their own lives.

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."

Why I like this quote is because any individual can take it and apply their own context to it. At stages in our life we will have tasks or situations that we deem to be impossible, however proving that not to be the case is ultimately determined by our individual actions.

Taking this mantra into everything that we embark on will allow us to challenge what we previously thought to be impossible.

Mr Peter Allen

Director of Teaching and Learning