Boxing legend Muhammad Ali receives Liberty Medal
Philadelphia, PA, United States (4E Sports) – Boxing legend Muhammad Ali has been awarded the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center for his role as a transformative figure personifying the struggle for liberty.
The 70-year-old Ali, who was inflicted with Parkinson’s Disease, acknowledged the standing ovation of the crowd by briefly raising his right hand when his name was called. His wife, Yolanda “Lonnie” Ali, delivered a speech on his behalf.
“Muhammad has always believed that he lives within the great circle of humanity. He is, indeed, of the people,” she said. “His care, his concerns, his well wishes are all focused on the people within that great circle – we, the people.”
Established in 1988 to commemorate the bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, the Liberty Medal is awarded to annually to men and women of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. It comes with a $100,000 prize.
Past recipients include Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela, Colin Powell, Sandra Day O’Connor, Mikhail Gorbachev, Bono, and Steven Spielberg.
A tribute video showing the highlights of his remarkable life was also shown during the ceremony.
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. in Louisville, Kentucky, he won the gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. He converted to Islam and changed his name after claiming the world heavyweight championship in 1964.
Ali was stripped of his title after he refused to be drafted for the war, based on his religious faith. His predicament became a source of inspiration for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to publicly oppose the conflict.
On June 28, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court voided Ali’s conviction for refusing to be drafted and four months later, fought Joe Frazier for the first time at Madison Square Garden in what was billed as the “Fight of the Century.”
To the shock of millions, Ali lost to Frazier but bounced back by winning their last two fights, including the “Thrilla in Manila” in 1975.
“It is incredibly fitting that Muhammad Ali, a representative for the bicentennial of the Constitution, be awarded the prestigious Liberty Medal in 2012, as the nation celebrates the 225th anniversary of our founding document,” said former President Bill Clinton, chairman of the National Constitution Center.
Clinton said Ali embodies the spirit of the Liberty Medal by “embracing the ideals of the Constitution – freedom, self-governance, equality, and empowerment – and helping to spread them across the globe.”