Bill Clinton gets emotional at Muhammad Ali’s funeral
Former President Bill Clinton became emotional as he delivered a eulogy at Muhammad Ali’s memorial service on Friday (06.10.16).
The ex-US leader was one of the final people to address the audience at the KFC Yum! Center in Kentucky and recalled the sporting legend’s battle with Parkinson’s Disease – which he was diagnosed with in 1984 – and how he refused to let it beat him or destroy his "gifts".
He said: "The first part of his life was dominated by the triumph of his truly unique gifts. We should never stop looking at the movies and thank Will Smith for making his movie. It was a thing of beauty.
"The second part of his life was more important because he refused to be imprisoned by a disease that kept him held longer than Nelson Mandela was held in prison.
"He perfected gifts that we all have. We have gifts of mind and heart but he found a way to release them in ways large and small."
And the former president grew increasingly emotional as he recalled seeing the boxer – who died of septic shock on June 3 – light the Olympic flame.
He said: "My enduring image of him is like a little reel of three shots. The boxer as a boy, the man I watched take their last steps to light the Olympic flame when I was president and I’ll never forget it, by then I had some sense of what he was living with.
"Seeing his hands shake and I knew he would take those steps – I knew it would happen – the flame would be lit.
"And then this. The children whose lives he touched. The young people he inspired. It’s the most important thing of all. I ask you to remember that.
"We all have an Ali story. It’s the gifts we all have that should be most honoured today.
"Never wasting a day, that the rest of us could see anyway, feeling sorry for himself that he had Parkinson’s. Knowing that three decades of his life would be circumscribed in ways that would be chilling to the naked eye but with the free spirit made his life bigger not smaller."
Clinton’s speech was followed by a moment’s silence to allow the Ali family to leave the arena and then Imam Zaid Shakir read a poem and said a prayer to conclude the service.
Earlier at the event, actor Billy Crystal spoke fondly of his 42-year friendship with the boxer, who used to call him his "little brother".
The 68-year-old star said he considered the "legend" to be a lightning bolt.
He explained: "On the moment of impact, it lights up everything around it.
"His intense light shined on America. We were able to see clearly injustice…. Ali forced us to take a look at ourselves….
"He is gone, but he will never die, he was my big brother."
The service also saw eulogies from Muhammad’s widow Lonnie and daughters Rasheda and Maryum.
The multi-faith ceremony – which was planned according to Muhammad’s wishes – began when Hamza Abdul Malik gave a reading from the Quran.
Rabbis Michael Lerner and Joe Rapport gave addresses and Venerable Utsumi and Sister Denise performed a Buddhist chant.
Ambassador Shabazz – the daughter of civil rights activist Malcolm X – wept during her speech as the audience applauded her words.
She said: "We all have the same god, we just serve him differently – rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans all have different names but they all contain water.
"So do religions have different names, and yet they all contain truth.
"It doesn’t matter whether you’re Muslim, Christian or a Jew – when you believe in god, you should believe all people are part of one family."
Earlier in the day, thousands of people lined the streets of Muhammad’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to pay their respects to the iconic sportsman.