By Ms. Catrina Francis (Fort Knox news)April 7, 2017
One of the most memorable quotes from the late Muhammad Ali, even for those who aren't boxing fans, is "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can't hit what his eyes can't see. Now you see me, now you don't. George thinks he will, but he won't."
Although Ali died in June 2016, his legacy in and outside of the boxing ring has been on display in Louisville since November 2005 at the Muhammad Ali Center.
Jeannie Kahnke, the senior director of public relations and external affairs at the Muhammad Ali Center, said Louisville was chosen because the co-founders, Ali and his wife Lonnie, wanted to the center to be located in his hometown. She said they didn't want the center to be a museum with artifacts that only showcased and told the story about his boxing career because that was only a part of his life.
"They wanted the center to be a living institution, educational and cultural center that would carry on his legacy for years and generations to come," explained Kahnke. "When someone passes away, a few years later another generation comes along (and) information about that person's life is lost. Part of our mission is to promote and preserve Muhammad's legacy.
"Our educational programs and outreach partnerships tell the world about Muhammad's life in and outside the ring. Certainly his life inside the ring was amazing, but beyond that what Louisville experienced last year when he passed (showed) he was an international icon and that meant more to people than just his boxing career."
Even though a significant portion of Ali's life was in the boxing ring, the center also tells his life as a humanitarian. Kahnke pointed out that Ali donated the proceeds from his first professional fight to the then Kosair Children's Crippled Hospital.
Kahnke added that the center is comprised and organized around Ali's six core principles that he lived and embraced his entire life.
"When visitors come to the Ali Center I think they are delighted to find out his life story is not told in a chronological fashion but it's told around his principles," she said.
The six core principles are confidence, conviction, dedication, respect, giving and spirituality.
In the confidence pavilion visitors will see that Ali had a very high level of self-confidence. Kahnke said his self-confidence was during a time when black people were to be seen and not heard in the 1950s. Ali would was known to say, "I'm so pretty" or "I'm the greatest of all times."
"No one said that back then, and he gave people of color in the United States at that time a new perspective of looking at themselves and saying, 'I am beautiful (or) I'm not going to let others define who I am,'" said Kahnke. "He gave people of color and other ethnicities around the world a surge in their own self-confidence."
Kahnke said the dedication pavilion is a message for young people. This pavilion explains that to achieve a goal an individual has to work hard. Dedication also explains how serious Ali was about having this goal come to fruition.
"His hard work paid off," she said. "Not only did he achieve his goal once being heavy weight champion of the world, he achieved it three times. It shows us how hard Muhammad worked to attain his level of success. He didn't smoke, drink (or) date much. He would run aside the school bus (and) he would go to the gym. He worked very hard and there's film, images and quotes in that area."
The conviction pavilion focuses on the civil rights era. Kahnke said the exhibit is red because that color is seen as edgy and not peaceful. In this section there is a café where visitors can go in and hear a motion-activated voice that comes on telling visitors, "Stay out of this café. We don't serve your kind." The voice is representative of a white business owner who didn't serve black people at that time and this really happened to Ali, explained Kahnke.
"When he came back to Louisville from representing his country with a gold medal he didn't receive service in a café in his own hometown," she said. "That's how you enter that pavilion. There are a lot of film, images and quotes from the civil rights era from all of the different opinions that were swirling around during that time."
The pavilion also has a history lesson of the1960s assassinations of prominent people like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. Kahnke pointed out that there is a timeline of the Vietnam War and it explains the beginning of the war. She said the timeline is very easy to understand, and it shows Ali's stance against the war.
"We wanted to show visitors that in 1967 when Muhammad was called to fight in the Vietnam War (how) popular opinion at that time was still very much behind the Vietnam War," she said. "Then in 1968 when (the) Tet (Offensive) occurred that is when public opinion started to sway the other way. It's a space that has a lot of information. We show both sides (of) what people were saying and what people were doing at that time."
In the respect pavilion a film shows the progression of Muhammad's life in terms of his own self-respect in a place early in his adult life where he had respect for himself, Kahnke said. She added that he was still a human being who wasn't the most mature person, and that is shown through some of the decisions he made during this time.
"As human beings none of us are perfect," Kahnke said. "It does show his respect and self-respect, and sometimes his disrespect for others on his journey to maturity."
The giving pavilion has Ali's recipe for life through a poem which explained the perfect recipe for living a good life and giving back to others. Visitors can put their hand in a cast of Ali's hand which activates a screen that has real-life stories from people who met Ali and other stories about giving. Many were taken back by his giving spirit and that affected their lives, said Kahnke. There is also a quote on the wall about giving.
She said the spirituality pavilion is a very relaxing space where the screen is on the ceiling and there are comfortable laid back chairs where visitors can recline and look up at the ceiling and listen to soft music and hear some of Ali's quotes. There is a graphic on the wall that has a rivers, ponds and streams quote.
"It says, rivers, ponds, lakes and streams all contain water just as all religions contain truth," she said. "There is a strong message there for people to reflect on their own spirituality in their life and how they treat others. It's a very thoughtful space."
The center has a regulation sized boxing ring that is designed to look like his 1970s Pennsylvania training camp. Visitors can learn basic boxing moves in a film that is narrated and demonstrated by his daughter Laila Ali. A heavy and speed bag are available to practice those moves.
Boxing enthusiasts have an opportunity to visit the fourth floor in the center to watch Ali's 15 most famous fights in their entirety.
Kahnke said one of the most touching films is Ali lighting the 1996 Olympic torch in Atlanta. She said that was his coming out with Parkinson's disease because many didn't know he was battling the disease.
"Muhammad was doing something that was difficult for him, (and this) sends a message of hope for other people whether they have Parkinson's, cancer or lost friends," she said. "If Muhammad Ali can get out there and do this in front of 4 � billion people, I can too. We have the actual torch Muhammad carried at the Olympics."
Beyond that space there are new exhibits that opened in September 2016. There is a brand new exhibit with a timeline of some of his humanitarian works that began in the 1960s. It's interactive with stories and pictures.
"The timeline ends with Muhammad's funeral," Kahnke said. "The quote at the end by one of his friends John Ramsey (states), 'Let this man of peace rest in peace.'"