“Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
Plenty of posts have been made regarding the historical perspective of the greatness that is Muhammad Ali. I wanted to speak more on how he impacted lives of those who never met him but knew of his legacy.
In February of 2004, a year before I started college, Adidas started the “Impossible is Nothing”campaign. Athletes from around the world starred in these images with that simple but inspiration slogan. I was immediately drawn to the iconic photo of a young Ali looking down after defeating Sonny Liston and shocking the world. The message behind the poster struck me the most. Here I was, a young and poor black kid, accepted into multiple colleges and prepared to beat all the odds stacked against me. It seemed back then that the future was mine to take and limits were more mental than actual. Muhammad Ali embodied disproving impossibility. A few generations removed from a family of slavery, Ali grew up to be a champion and worldwide humanitarian, determined to enrich the human condition.
When I left home to move to Louisville 11 years ago, one of the few things that came with me was that poster. I had it ‘signed’ (fake with a silver sharpie marker) and placed it prominently on the wall of any dorm or crappy Old Louisville studio I lived in from starting undergrad until it fell apart during move number 5 in my second year of Law School.
It was just a poster, but the poster each day reminded me to think. It made me consider my own circumstances and challenges growing up and served as a reminder that most of the barriers moving forward were nothing if I put my mind to it. While life is not wholly dependent on how hard you work for your goals, it does play a part and any effort towards your dreams counts.
Muhammad Ali also served as a beacon of hope to me as a black male. The world in his time, and even still today, was not sure how much power and influence to cede to a black man in white male’s America. Every day there were things that he faced or questions he was asked that were deeply impacted by his race. He transcended those things in a time where the vestiges of racism were still rampant, even in his and our hometown of Louisville. Growing up in West Louisville and progressing to the status of world icon is a growth model we all should aspire to. Not to be rich and famous and world known, but to deal with the cards we are dealt and become the best version of ourselves that we can be.
I do not know firsthand, but I feel that leading up to the Rumble in the Jungle when Ali saw the influence and impact he had on those people in a far away country having never met them or spoken of them directly…I think in that instance he learned how he could have such a global impact and decided to use that ability for the betterment of all.
I feel this is what made Muhammad Ali truly unique and the greatest. He wanted to use his platform outside of the sports world to enrich others and lift them up. The Ali Center is a testament to his boxing exploits, sure, but it is also a living and growing shrine to his humanitarian efforts. Muhammad Ali did not do the great things he did for the recognition and the accolades. I honestly had no idea how much he has given to Louisville centric things. He did these things because they were right and because he could. Few of us currently have that altruism that seemed to personify Muhammad Ali. I wish we did and I feel that as a whole we should strive to have that one day.
People like Muhammad Ali force you to assess your own position on this earth and to seek to discover your true purpose. Muhammad Ali surely discovered his purpose on this earth and while he was doing that, he also taught us that we all have something different to offer humanity, be it sports, writing, legal ability, politics, doctors, teachers, nurses, etc. We all have a part to play in this great production of the movie of life.
Louisville is home to many champions. The basketball teams, football BCS champions, the 23409234092834 time and defending spirit squads, the baseball teams, and numerous other champions that can be found in this talent rich city, but ultimately, Louisville is home to the Greatest and that is a champion that can never be defeated.
My poster may have ripped when I was moving, but the message it, and Ali, taught me will always remain and I thank him for that. Impossible is nothing.