Monday, March 10, 2014
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Then there was Cassius Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali after converting to Islam.
In a time when it was the habit, if not a requirement, that black men should avert their eyes at the gaze of white people, Ali proudly and audaciously proclaimed himself "the greatest of all time."
He virtually invented the phrase "black is beautiful." Then he backed it all up in the ring, along the way reinventing boxing from a game of ponderous sluggers to a world of delicate footwork, speed, strategy and psychology.
At the peak of his career, Ali's anti-war stance cost him five of his best years as an athlete, but ensured that he would leave an imprint upon the country.
Whenever I find myself worrying about where America is headed, I try to remember the thousands of points of inspiration that we all have to turn to in difficult moments. And to remember what those people endured.
The architects of our future won't be the cowards who leave explosives on crowded sidewalks but the many people who work every day for the next breakthrough that will lift us all up, open holes in the false ceilings above us and bring more sunlight into our lives.
Alan Caron is the president of Envision Maine, which is working to promote Maine's next economy, and a partner in the Caron & Egan Consulting Group. He can be reached at: