Editor’s note: Legendary Muhammad Ali passed away on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74.
To his daughter the world’s greatest athlete, three times heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali (1942-2016), was simply known as Daddy. In her heartfelt tribute, More Than A Hero, Hana Ali shares the life lessons she has learned from her dad, and offers an intensely personal look at one of the most revered men on the face of the earth. The book serves as an inspirational reminder that we can all achieve greatness. Here are a few wonderful stories from his life.
The following incident took place when Muhammad Ali’s daughters arrived at his home wearing clothes that were not modest. Says Hanna:
“If memory serves me correctly, I was wearing a little white tank top and a short black skirt. I had never before worn such revealing clothing while in my father’s presence. When we finally arrived, the chauffeur escorted my younger sister, Laila, and me up to my father’s suite. As usual, he was hiding behind the door waiting to scare us. We exchanged many hugs and kisses as we could possibly give in one day.
“My father took a good look at us. Then he sat me down on his lap and said something that I will never forget. He looked me straight in the eyes and said:
‘Hana, everything that God made valuable in the world is covered and hard to get to. Where do you find diamonds? Deep down in the ground, covered and protected. Where do you find pearls? Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, covered up and protected in a beautiful shell. Where do you find gold? Way down in the mine, covered over with layers and layers of rock. You’ve got to work hard to get to them’.
“He looked at me with serious eyes. ‘Your body is sacred. You’re far more precious than diamonds and pearls, and you should be covered too’.”
“One of my fondest memories of the house I grew up in was of coming home after elementary school. I’d run straight into my father’s office and jump onto his lap, giving him bunches of hugs and kisses. After a few hours of drawing or coloring pictures on the office floor by the fireplace, I would head upstairs to my room to play some more. Once, when I was seven, I found a strange person in my bed. I ran right down to my dad and rambled on about how burglars had broken into the house and they were in my room snoring loudly! He calmed me down and explained that the people I saw were not burglars. They were a homeless family that had no place to live and no food to eat.”
SAVING A LIFE
“My father was, and still is, always doing great things like that. One time, he got a telephone call about a young man who was threatening to jump off of a building a few blocks away from our house.
” The man was a Vietnam veteran who felt he had nothing left to live for. My father immediately dropped what he was doing, drove to the location, got out on the ledge with the young man, and talked him back inside the window. Soon thereafter, my father found him an apartment and paid the rent until the vet could find a decent job.”
SERVICE TO OTHERS
“Yes, my father is a hero! The world knows it, and I know it. However, I get the privilege of witnessing the little things, which in the end are really where true heroism lies. For example, I once asked my father how he finds the strength to do all that he does. He gracefully replied, ‘Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth’.
“Not too long after that conversation, Lonnie, Laila, Asaad (who is the youngest of us all), my father, and I were driving to his home from the airport in the rain around eleven-thirty at night. A big bus of tourists recognized my dad in the passenger seat. My father asked Lonnie to pull over. He signed autographs and took pictures with every soul on that bus! I clearly recall thinking, I understand him. I know how truly blessed I am to be able to be with an angel that is my daddy.
“On one occasion we almost missed our flight back to Chicago out of New York City. Dad was signing autographs. By the time we boarded the plane, a man and his son from coach were sitting in our first-class seats.
“When the flight attendant asked them to resume their original seats, my father stopped her and asked the little boy if he had ever flown first class. The boy shyly replied, ‘No’. My dad smiled and said, ‘Then this is your lucky day.’ The boy’s father thanked us, and we headed to the back of the plane to our new seats. As you can see, my father passed a hero’s test far beyond all the best.”
Date posted: January 16, 2011.
Last updated: June 4, 2016.
The above excerpts from the book, More Than A Hero: Muhammad Ali’s Life Lessons Through His Daughter’s Eyes were published on this website on the occasion of Muhammad Ali’s 69th birthday on January 17, 2011.
Also: Watch New York Times video on the life of Ali by clicking on the following image:
MUHAMMAD ALI: “What’s My Name?”
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