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Rep. John Lewis on Passing of Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali

June 4, 2016
Press Release

"Muhammad Ali was an inspiration to people all around the world.  He was a man who gave up his title and risked his place in history to stand up for what he believed.  His moral courage and willingness to put himself in harm's way served as a enduring inspiration to young men, especially young activists, in this country and around the world.  He spoke out for peace and justice, and he strengthened the resolve of young people to resist militarism and the ill-fated war in Vietnam.

"I have not often watched boxing tournaments, but I remember how my father and uncles would root for Ali to win in the ring.  His accomplishments gave so many a sense of pride and validated the capacity of African Americans to excel, to lead, and even surpass others in their achievements.

"He had great respect for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the young people of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. His willingness to defy the draft, to go to jail, and his non-participation in war was very much in keeping with the philosophy and discipline of non-violent resistance.  Louisville, the city where he was born, was a hotbed of the movement, and Nashville was only a short distance away. Just as he inspired us, I believe our example may have also provided him with some encouragement to follow the leading of his own heart and act on the dictates of his conscience.

"Muhammad Ali has left an indelible mark on American history, not only because he was a phenomenal athlete, but his single-minded commitment to the highest principles of justice proved it is not what a man does, but what he stands for that makes him great.  Muhammad Ali will be deeply missed."