Muhammad Ali deserved his medal

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 12:06 a.m.
Eileen Maren (Voice, Nov. 16) wrote that she was "astonished that Muhammad Ali was a recipient of the Medal of Freedom" and went on to say that he claimed to be a conscientious objector to avoid serving in Vietnam. She concluded by stating "Ali was an insult to the many people who served our great nation."
As a matter of fact, Muhammad Ali did not dodge the draft. He asserted his lawful right as a conscientious objector, based on his religious faith, to refuse to be drafted and was sentenced to prison for his stand. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
In Ali's autobiography, "The Soul of a Butterfly," he wrote "my religious beliefs were not compatible with the responsibilities and expectations of a soldier in combat ... I just couldn't do it. I didn't believe that was God's plan for me."
Ali paid a heavy price for his courageous stand. He was stripped of his title and banned from the ring for three years at the prime of his boxing career. He went on to win his title back and successfully defended it 19 times. After retiring from the ring, he spent much of his time as a U.N. Ambassador for Peace, trying to raise awareness of poverty in many of the poorest countries. He was also very supportive of the Special Olympics.
In my eyes Muhammad Ali's life's achievements, service, and integrity eminently qualify him for the prestigious Medal of Freedom award.
Richard T. Beardsley, Gainesville

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