The first writing assignment in our Cultural Exploration class was to read David Renmick’sKing of the World” about the life and career of Muhammad Ali. The book takes us beyond his career as a boxer to portray his life within the context of the turbulent cultural tapestry of the 1960s.

We are confronted with Ali’s role as a civil rights advocate, a Muslim and a draft resister. A flawed husband to several wives, a conflicted friend of Malcolm X and a constant fascination of the press and public. Ali pursues peace, while thriving at violent sport. He speaks for the rights of blacks, while ignoring those of women.

He begins the book a near-perfect athlete – strong, fast, intelligent and intimidating. Yet as he deteriorates physically, his character grows. Ali’s story is really a dozen stories woven into the life of one man. A cultural potluck with a little something for everyone.

Most of all, Ali is a hero.

Like all heroes, from Hercules forward, he is not without his flaws, but the strength of his conviction and the triumphs of his life will long outlast the frailties of the man.

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