Another giant of my life is gone. Muhammed Ali was 7 years my senior; I remember watching the young and glorious Cassius Clay in the 1960 Olympics when I was not yet in my teens. My dad loved boxing. I do not, and never have. (I turn away from the screen during Shah Rukh Khan's more brutal fight scenes, and I refuse to watch "Raging Bull", despite my tremendous admiration for Robert DiNiro.)
But Muhammed Ali was more than a boxer and a celebrity. He was a principled person who used his fame to work for positive change in the world. He was a courageous person who could walk away from a lucrative career at his peak by taking a controversial stand on the most contentious issue of our generation. As the sister of a draft resister, who risked much less for the same reason, I know how hard it can be to be true to your own principles.
His appearance at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics -- his body trembling as he lit the Olympic flame -- broke my heart and yet raised my spirits. Still alive, still fighting. Still witnessing.
The fact that the world is plagued by people who use the power of celebrity to make themselves bigger and wealthier, while belittling and crushing others makes the loss of Muhammed Ali even sadder. Every empty-souled celebrity on the planet needs to look in the mirror today and measure the distance between their lives and his.