In 1967, he was 25 years old. He was the heavyweight champion of the world, and for religious beliefs, he practiced what Martin Luther King made popular, civil disobedience, because he disagreed with the war. I thought his comments were rather astute at the time and were not complex, but he merely said, I have no quarrel with the Viet-Cong. He said the Viet-Cong never called him a name, and because of his religious convictions, he said he did not want to serve in the military. He stood firm, a man of principle, and I really admired this as a quality.
He is known, of course, for his athletic skills and his humanitarian concerns, and these are rightly mentioned in a resolution like this. But I do want to emphasize this because, to me, it was so important and had such impact, in reality, what Muhammad Ali did eventually led to getting rid of the draft, and yet we as a people and we as a Congress still do not have the conviction that Muhammad Ali had, because we still have the selective service; we say, let us not draft now, but when the conditions are right, we will bring back the draft and bring back those same problems that we had in the 1960s.
I see what Muhammad Ali did as being very great. He deserves this recognition, but we should also praise him for being a man of principle and willing to give up his title for 3 years at the age of 25 at the prime of his career. How many of us give up something to stand on principle? He was a man of principle. He believed it and he stood firm, so even those who may disagree with his position may say at least he stood up for what he believed in. He suffered the consequences and fortunately was eventually vindicated."