When future people look back on the period between the '60s and the '70s, they will remember it as a time of enlightenment when people expanded their consciousness and changed the way they would think, feel and behave for generations to come.
It was a period that fundamentally altered the way we think about race, gender, the environment, consumerism, and yes -- even media.
And nobody personifies that better than Muhammad Ali.
He changed the way people thought about race, war, religion and ultimately, humanitarianism. And he used media to do it. He used the medium of his own body to overcome adversaries in the ring, and of his mouth to overcome them outside it.
He used the power of news and entertainment media -- both print and electronic -- to become one of the most famous and influential people ever. At one point, more people worldwide knew who Muhammad Ali was than Jesus.
Among the stereotypes he helped bust was what it means to be masculine, macho, tough and strong, showing that skill, speed and an indomitable will were more powerful than brute strength.
He optimized that with what is likely his most famous quote: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” And he proved it by using superior skills and speed to overcome Sonny Liston to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
Growing up watching Ali float his way across the ring on TV, I was surprised by how physically imposing he was when I actually got to meet him in the 1980s, when he was helping to promote a syndicated TV boxing series developed by Don King.
He was way past his prime, and his Parkinson’s Disease had already set in. But I could still feel the Champ inside him when I shook his hand and asked for his autograph.
Muhammad Ali was my hero.He taught me to stand up for what you believe, how to overcome adversity and where real strength comes from.