Philip's Burnett family meets Muhammad Ali
On August 31st, we (young Keegan and Ethan, grown brother, David and his wife, Cori, and David and Mary Burnett) witnessed a priceless memory.
We visited the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky. The mission of the center "is to preserve and share the legacy and ideals of Muhammad Ali, to promote respect, hope and understanding, and to inspire adults and children everywhere to be as great as they can be." The center has six levels that include galleries, a library and archives, theater, class rooms, an auditorium and interactive exhibits.
Examples of Ali's humor, poetry and legacy can be explored through a biographical journey that highlights his core values. Ali's professional career and greatest boxing matches are celebrated through film. Hands-on activities help visitors discover Ali's dedication to mind, body and spirit, with an emphasis on respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and spirituality.
As we were returning to the main lobby, the champion himself made an unexpected visit to the center. We were all awestruck.
The center's staff invited everyone to meet Mr. Ali and to take pictures with him. Ethan made his way to his boxing hero, and as he walked over to him, I could feel the lump in my throat getting bigger and bigger. Mr. Ali wanted to hold Ethan, so with assistance (Ali has Parkinson's disease), Ethan was lifted up to his arms. He held Ethan, smiled and kissed him on the cheek. He hugged Keegan and posed with all of us for a picture. What an unforgettable and emotional moment! What a joy and a pleasure to be in the presence of greatness.
Ali has always been four-year-old Ethan's boxer. As he gets a little older, we hope that he will look to Ali, not only as a boxing hero, but much more. We think after going through the center, Keegan, age nine, gets this. We all had the privilege to meet a remarkable man that day; a priceless moment. Thank you, Muhammad Ali, for your inspiration.
Sports commentator Bob Costa summed it up as Muhammad lit the 1996 Summer Olympic torch in Atlanta. "The response he evokes is part affection, part excitement, but especially respect. What a moment." These are our sentiments exactly.