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The best known face in the world floated into a sold-out Burden Auditorium last Wednesday night and delivered a combination of poems, off-the-cuff sparring with the audience and a prepared lecture on friendship to a receptive crowd of 1100.
Muhammed Ali, world heavyweight boxing champion, prefaced a 30-minute speech on friendship and the heart by saying. "I'm told it's a big honor to come to a place like this and figured I had to come up with something to talk to these people that's gotta be pretty heavy."
Ali was forced to push his Class Day speaking commitment up a week to accommodate his training schedule for a forthcoming bout on June 28.
Ali's lecture focused on the need to remember one's roots and to develop a true concept of friendship. Much of what Ali said echoes the Muslim teaching of which he is a follower.
Ali emphasized the need for unconditional friendship. "One learns friendship by being one. If a man extracts in return all he does for a friend then it is business, not true friendship," he said.
After expounding on the need to develop the heart "for the greatness of a man depends on his heart not on his education or wealth" Ali revealed the source of his wisdom to the audience. "I study what you learn in school..." he said. "...common sense."
The champ ended his lecture within its predicted 30 minutes saying. "It's always a victory to finish a thing in a set time," alluding to his habit of predicting the round in which he will knock out his opponent.
A half-hour show followed featuring Muhammed taking digs at Howard Cosell. "Howard wanted to be a boxer but they couldn't find a mouthpiece big enough... Blacks like Cosell cause they like to see a white guy make a fool of himself."
There was also a poetry recital of sorts including the "shortest poem ever written on what it's like to be as great as Ali." "Me? Whee!!"
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