Muhammad Ali's family, friends, and fans gathered in his hometown of Louisville, KY today to celebrate the late legend at his funeral. The interfaith ceremony saw the likes of political figures, entertainers, journalists, fellow athletes, and more share anecdotes about their respective relationships with the applauded boxer and activist, as well as declarations on how he influenced them individually.
While Will Smith, Mike Tyson, and others acted as pallbearers, and Ali's own children read dedicated poems and proudly quoted their dad's famed messages, below we share the most powerful words said about a man who proved to be "The Greatest" in more ways than one.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, began by recounting Ali's words after beating Sonny Liston ("I am the greatest"), and acknowledged that their friendship likely confused the public.
"Our differences fortified our friendship; they did not define it."
Dr. Kevin Cosby, Senior Pastor at St. Stephen Church in Louisville:
"He's the property of all people but he's the product of black people in their struggle to be free."
"James Brown said I'm black and I'm proud; Ali said I'm black and I'm pretty."
"Many bet on him when he was in the winner's circle. The masses bet on him while he was in the mud."
Rabbi Michael Lerner:
"The way to honor Muhammad Ali is to be Muhammad Ali."
Muhammad Ali used his fame "to stand up to an immoral war."
Rabbi Joe Rapport:
We can now "embody a measure of his kindness and compassion."
Chief Sidney Hill, Tadodaho of Onondaga Indian Nation, and Chief Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation noted that Ali always supported indigenous people's rights in America.
"We know what he was up against because we've had 524 years of survival training, ourselves."
Attallah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X, received a standing ovation after delivering her eulogy.
"Even those that don't claim a religion are feeling something right now."
"When you are in the presence of someone whose life is filled with principle the seed is in you, so you have to cultivate that responsibly, as well."
[Quoting Ali] "'We all have the same God. We just serve him differently. Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, [and] oceans all have different names, but they all contain water, so do religions have different names and yet they all contain truth, truth expressed in different ways, forms, and times. It doesn't matter if you're a Muslim, Christian, or Jew, when you believe in God, you should believe all people are a part of one family, for if you love God, you can't love only some of his children.'"
"Having Ali in my life helped me sustain the death of my father 51 years longer, until now."
"May we meet again by the light of understanding and I say to you by the light of that compass, by any means necessary."
Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor, representing and reading a letter on behalf of President Obama and the First Lady:
"He was bigger, brighter and more original and influential than just about anyone of his era!"
"It seemed somehow the Champ was simply too big for America, but I think the world flocked to him because, as Ali put it, he was America."
"He was a radical even in radical times; a loud and proud and unabashedly Black voice in a Jim Crow world."
"He was our most basic freedoms -- religion, speech, spirit."
"His jabs knocked some sense into us."
Lonnie Ali, Muhammad's widow, took the stage to chants of "Ali! Ali!"
"Though sentenced to jail, he would not be intimidated so as to abandon his principles and his values."
"It was his religion that caused him to turn away from war and violence."
"Muhammad wants young people of every background to see his life as proof that adversity can make you stronger. It cannot rob you of your power to achieve your dreams.'
"America must never forget when a cop and an inner city kid can talk with one another, miracles can happen."
"The rich and powerful were drawn to him, but he was drawn to the poor and forgotten."
"He lived in the moment. He neither lived in the past nor harbored anxiety about the future."
"If Muhammad did not like the rules, he rewrote them."
"He was sure-footed in his self-awareness, secure in his faith, and he did not fear death."
Natasha Mundkur, Muhammad Ali Center scholar:
"Impossible is not a fact, impossible is an opinion. Impossible is nothing."
John Ramsey, radio host and longtime friend, recounted many personal stories, while delivering a dead-on impersonation of Ali every so often.
"He had swagger before he knew what swagger was."
Billy Crystal first quipped, "We're at the halfway point; I was clean-shaven when this started" before, like Ramsey, peppering his eulogy with spot-on impressions of Ali.
"It's very hard to describe how much he meant to me. You had to live in his time."
"He was beautiful. He was the most perfect athlete you ever saw. And those were his own words."
"Didn't he make all of our lives a little better than they were?"
"35 years after he stopped fighting, he is still the champion of the world."
"He taught us that life is best when you build bridges between people, not walls."
"Has any man ever scripted a greater arc to his life?"
"The world needs a champion who will always work to bridge the economic & social divides."
"Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color do the hating. It's just wrong."
President Bill Clinton received a standing ovation after delivering his speech, as well.
"I think he decided very young to write his own life story... He decided that he would not ever be disempowered."
"I can hear Ali say, 'Well, I thought I should be eulogized by at least one president."
"Some people never make it to the level of living with the consequences of what they believe."
"He never got credit for being as smart as he was."
"A universal soldier for our common humanity."
"I will always think of Muhammad as a truly free man of faith."
"We should honor him by letting our gifts go among the world."
Imam Zaid Shakir, prominent Muslim scholar who opened the memorial by leading the crowd in a chant of "Ali! Ali!," returned with a rhyme-friendly closing statement that would have made the boxer and activist proud:
"Willing to give up his money, his title, he dedicated himself to a higher fight."
"He left an indelible stamp and he will always be known as the people's champ!"