Barrack Obama was talking about Muhammad Ali at the White House. His talk his produced below.
This week we lost an ICON – Somebody who was a personal hero of mine, somebody who ended up transforming not just the world of sports but the world as a whole – The Greatest, the Champ Muhammad Ali. I know that during the course of this week we are seeing this incredible outpouring of love and testimony about the impact that he had as an athlete in the ring, as somebody who was willing to speak out on behalf of issues of social justice even at times when they were not popular. Somebody who ended up becoming an ambassador not only on behalf of one of the world’s great religions but also as somebody who worked as a bridge for the relationship of peace and understanding between religions. A person who, for African Americans, liberated their minds in recognizing that they could be proud of who they were, and also that they could pretty and tough at the same time.
I grew up watching him. I grew up having my identity shaped by what he accomplished and one of the great blessings of my life was the fact that, I ran for office became a US senator and then a president, I was able to get to know the Champ.
It was later in life, he had already been stricken with Parkinson’s and so sometimes it was difficult for him to talk and to move and yet the incredible gestures of love and support that he showed me was one of the great blessings of my life. And so, during this week what I want to do is show you two things that I keep here in the White house as reminders of him. These are not the two things that I put away somewhere and are just trotting up for this particular moment. These are the things I have been living with every single day that I have been here in the White house as a reminder of everything that Muhammad Ali stood for.
So come on, we’ll take a look at it.
OK, so first of all we’ve got this book, which says GOAT (Greatest of all Times), a tribute to Muhammad Ali. The significance of this book, which I actually keep at the residence, I brought it down here, this is the back dining room of the oval office where I eat more informal lunches. But I wanted to bring it down here so people can see it. We actually keep this book in residence and Michelle, and the girls and my mother in law, we have all gone through this book plenty of times. Not only is this an amazing book which has these incredible pictures of all the iconic moments that people took of the Champ as he was coming up, but the reason it’s so important to me is that the Champ gave this book to me personally. He actually delivered it through somebody who was working on my staff and was a family friend of his. He wanted me to have it. What I learned was that he really was rooting for me the whole time that I was running for the US Senate and running for the Presidency and he thought that having this book would be a nice way for me to have a Champ in my corner. And so one of the reasons why I love this book so much, all pictures are great, but this picture of the two, which I’m assuming anybody watching knows, this iconic shot of the Champ standing over Sonny Liston at a time when nobody thought that Ali could defeat not just Liston once, but Liston twice.
The second thing I wanna show you real quick is a pair of gloves from the Champ, signed To Barrack from Muhammad Ali. I have kept this in this dining room the entire time I’ve been President. It is important for me to have them here. I do not know how good a boxer I am. However, there were times here in Washington where I’ve been the underdog just like the Champ, there were times where I got beat up a little bit, and had to come back, and that says ‘resilience’. That’s what these boxing gloves represent to me.
I want to say not just to not just all the fans around the world who drew such inspiration from Muhammad Ali but most importantly to his family, who celebrate this week. It is very rare where a figure captures the imagination of the entire world and it is even rarer when that figure does so by being open, funny, generous, and courageous.
He was one of a kind, and in my book, he will always be the greatest. God bless you.
Watch the full video below: