Who inspires you?
Who motivates you to keep going when the going gets tough?
For some, it’s a friend. For others, it’s their mom or dad. For many, it’s Muhammad Ali.
This week, the world mourns BBC’s “Sporting Personality of the Century” who died last Friday after battling Parkinson’s disease for over 3 decades. Most people know Muhammad Ali for his accolades inside the ring― with 56 wins and 37 knockouts, this three-time heavyweight champion of the world is widely considered the greatest boxer of all time. What people may not know is that outside the ring, Ali was a philanthropist, social activist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace.
In 1967, he refused to fight in the Vietnam War citing his religious right even though it cost him 3 years of his boxing career. In 1981, he talked a suicidal man off the ledge of a hotel building in Los Angeles. In 1990, he negotiated with Saddam Hussein for the release of 15 American hostages.
Throughout his life, Muhammad Ali was an inspiration to professional athletes and people everywhere to stand up for what they believe. A symbol of courage, “he stood in the face of [racial abuse and discrimination] and refused any suggestion that he be anything other than himself.”
It is that courage that drew people to him, that motivated the likes of Tommy Smith and John Carlos, Arthur Ashe and President Obama.
As I reflect on the life of Muhammad Ali, my mind drifts to Zaire, Africa; to that famous fight in 1974 when Ali beat boxing great George Foreman, to the fight known as the Rumble in the Jungle. And I find myself thinking about who inspires me, about who motivates me to keep going when the going gets tough.
I am inspired by the many young African women and men that I met these past couple years, women and men whose lives are a rumble in the jungle. They are entrepreneurs and teachers who stand in the face of poverty and corruption every day, going 15 rounds and getting back up again. To me, they are the Muhammad Alis of their countries fighting hard to be the best version of themselves and to inspire others to do the same.
Dave Emnett is the CFO of the Dare to Innovate Board of Directors. He served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin from 2013-2015. He is also currently a second year International MBA candidate at the University of South Carolina.