Sadiqa N Reynolds
WE certainly don’t need unnecessary controversy as there is plenty happening in the world without intentionally stirring it up. So given that warning, I’ve considered this idea and still find no legitimate reason why it shouldn’t be done. What’s the “it?” Changing the name of Louisville International airport to the Muhammad Ali International Airport.
This is an idea that we can get behind. Certainly, Ali was a favourite son of the city and we’ve all seen the stats and surveys that showed he was repeatedly among the most well-known figures in the world, even being called one of the 20 most influential Americans of all time by Time magazine. Of course, fame alone is no reason to honor a person with the naming of an airport. After all, there are many people that are famous for foolish and sundry endeavours. So most would agree that we should wait to judge a person’s whole life before we sign over naming rights. It is time. We know his story. We know it all. The great, the good and the ugly. In fact, he is one of the few public figures loved by people who might disagree with him religiously, romantically and philosophically. His life was lived transparently. He was forced to declare his God and he did. Whatever you believe about his beliefs, the idea that a man would risk life, limb, and freedom to peacefully stand loyal is worth honouring. And in fact, we have honoured him along with the rest of the world.
Our country seemed to pause and stand together during the service honouring the life of Ali. Of course, we have come together during tragedies forever ingrained in our hearts and minds, but the time we spent honouring his life was a time of great celebration. Surely this is because of the life he lived. He stood for the principles that are now embodied in the Muhammad Ali Centre: confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality. Ali has been the recipient of more awards and honours than we have space to list, including the Lifetime Achievement Award given by Amnesty International, as well as International Ambassador for Jubilee 2000, a global group formed to address third-world debt. And what is most special about Ali is that while he belongs to world, he is first the son of Louisville. His familial ties begin in this city, blocks from Louisville Urban League and a short car ride from Louisville Int’l Airport.
Who better to honor with the renaming of our airport? He is a symbol of what we strive to be: a city where race doesn’t matter, religion doesn’t matter and who you love is not a barrier. We are not there, but having his name so prominently placed would remind us each day of our aspirations. This is not to suggest that he was perfect — he was not. However, if we judge him by human standards, he was a giant among men. Not simply because he was a great boxer, not just because he stood up for himself, but because of the way he loved us . . . all of us.
He saw beyond skin colour, nation of origin, religion and other differences often used to divide. He simply decided to spend his life building bridges, trying to fix what is broken in our society. He visited soup kitchens and hospitals. He supported the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Special Olympics and summer camp for children infected with AIDS. There is no shortage of good work in his biography. And more than anything his life ended with a lesson for us all in tolerance and understanding and the idea that heroes are human. In only one lifetime he went from being hated to being adored. He is the epitome of what is possible if we dare to courageously open our hearts and minds. Somehow an airport bearing his name helps remind us all of the potential to fly. The writer is president and CEO of the Louisville Urban League. — Courtesy: USA Today