Designated by the United Nations in 1998 as a UN Messenger for Peace, Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) is best remembered in his passing as a man dedicated to justice. Six themes guided his life: respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and spirituality. Combined they produced a man who wasn't afraid to stand up for what he believed in no matter the consequences.
During the Vietnam War, Ali refused to be drafted and declared himself to be a conscientious objector, publically making the connection between war, racism and poverty that most white Americans didn't want to hear. Convicted of draft evasion, Ali was stripped of his heavy weight title and lost the income he would have made in the years he wasn't allowed to fight. He spent those years speaking out against the war on college campuses and in the media. Eventually, his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court, and Ali came back to fight and take a stand for peace and justice.
Although Ali, as an Olympic and professional boxer, was not a pacifist, he spoke out strongly against unjustified wars. His stand on the Vietnam War, inspired Martin Luther King to express his own opposition to the war.
He also spoke against bigotry and racism. Even suffering from Parkinson's disease in his last years did not stop him from responding to anti-Muslim comments by president candidate Donald Trump. As such he provided a role model different from that of most athletes of his time who steered clear of political stands. His courageous speaking out changed the way athletes were viewed and how athletes could use their renown in the sports arena to affect greater change in society.