I dare say the above quote is known , perhaps repeated and identified with its author more than any other quote in the last 50 years.“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But getused to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours;my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”
Yesterday the world lost another of its icons ,maybe the last( perhaps one left in Pele) for my generation. The Greatest – Muhammed Ali- is no more. He was more than a boxer. Universally loved, he brought our attention to issues of patriotism , futile wars, race and religion in a way only he could . He was probably one of the greatest communicator of all times with pithy quotes, some of which I share below, which got to the point directly much like the jabs which made him so successful in the ring.
My last two eulogies – Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandela- were about people I had actually met and touched physically . I never met Ali or even seen him . But I do have a very personal connection to him . One which eventually lead to my decision to move from the UK to the US and thereby profoundly change my life .
The year was 1978 the month December. I was sitting in my office in Manchester , UK. It was late afternoon and the phone rang . It was my friend and fellow International tax partner from Chicago, Gene Midlock. Gene and I had a special relationship and he would often sound me out on UK tax issues rather than use the many consultants based in our London office. I am particularly glad that he called me that afternoon which allows me now to tell this story .
After the short pleasantries , Gene told me that he had a question about UK taxation of foreign artists, athletes , performers etc . Further the matter concerned an individual who would be appearing in a major television event around Christmas that year. The program was ” This is Your Life” a format which sprang a ” surprise” on a celebrity and then dragged him or her to a studio with a live audience and unfolded their life in personal snippets. The program however was recorded and shown subsequently . The whole thing was supposed to be a total surprise with the person involved having no knowledge of the persons or events to be shared as part of their life. The local newspapers and broadcast media had been abuzz with speculation about who the celebrity would be at that year’s Christmas show which was a 45 minute version as opposed to the usual 30.
And here was Gene giving me advance information about the individual who was going to be ” surprised” for the Christmas show. After appraising me of the need for confidentiality Gene gave me the name. It was Muhammed Ali. Further that the tax issue concerned the payment Thames Television had agreed with Ali or his agent for appearing on the show. If memory serves me right it was $250000. Before Gene’s call I like millions others believed in the ” surprise” . To now be told that there was also a payment involved was doubly shattering. Hopefully the latter at least was only for this very special show which would and did drive up ratings.
After that initial surprise Gene and I got down to figuring out the tax consequences under the US/ UK Double Tax Treaty and other typical tax mumbo jumbo which I used to thrive on in those days . We probably saved Ali some serious money that day.
As I sat down on Christmas Day to watch ” This is Your Life” and the multiple “surprises ” sprung on Muhammad Ali , I could only wonder what the viewers would say if they knew what I did. Ali , true to form , put on the greatest act feigning surprise at everything . The highlight was his total ” surprise” at seeing Smoking Joe Frazier as the final surprise guest . Gene , I think had told me then or later that Ali and Frazier had flown over from the US together . The Greatest was also a great actor.
My recollection is that it was one of the most watched show that Christmas.
Before finishing this mail I watched that show again( link below) and as I watched the expressions on Ali’s face I continue to marvel at the man who made the entire world worship him as one of the Greatest human being of all time.
And to all the Trump supporters out there – America’s Greatest Athlete was a devout Muslim.
Rest in Peace – Muhammad Ali.Select Quotes from the Greatest
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”
“Don’t count the days; make the days count.”
“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”
“A man who views the world the same at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.”
“If they can make penicillin out of moldy bread, they can sure make something out of you.”“Live everyday as if it were your last because someday you’re going to be right.”
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