[intro]In his speech during Muhammad Ali’s memorial service in Louiseville over the weekend, Rabbi Michael Lerner called for ordinary people to follow in the footsteps of ‘The Greatest’, to speak truth to power, to support the end of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and fight for social change. Read and watch his full speech.[/intro]
“Master of Compassion, God of Compassion, send your blessings to Muhammad Ali and send your blessings to all who mourn for him and send your blessings for all the millions and millions of people who mourn for him all over this planet. I came here as a representative of American jews to say that American jews played an important role with African-American struggles in this country and that we today stand in solidarity with the Islamic community in this country and all around the world.
We will not tolerate politicians Or anyone else putting down muslims and blaming muslims for a few people. We know what it’s like to be demeaned. We know what it’s like to have a few people who act against the highest visions of our tradition. To then be identified as the value of that entire tradition. And one of the reasons that we at Tikkun Magazine, a magazine of liberal and progressive jews but also an interfaith magazine have called upon the United States to stand up to the Israeli government that is oppressing Palestinians. We as jews understand that our commitment is to recognise that God has created everyone in God’s image and that everyone is equally precious and that means the Palestinian people as well as all other people on the planet.
I know the people of Louisville have a special relationship to Muhammad Ali and I had a personal relationship in the 1960s when both of us were indicted by the federal government for our various stands against the war in Vietnam. I want to say that although he was cheered on as the heavyweight champion of the world, the truth is — all the honour to him — but heavyweight champions of the world come and go and sports heroes come and go. There was something about Muhammad Ali that was different. At the key moment when he had that recognition, he used it to stand up to an immoral war and say no, I won’t go.
And it’s for that reason that tens of millions of Americans who don’t particularly care about boxing do care about Muhammad Ali, because he was the person who was willing to risk a great honour that he got and the great fame that he got to stand up for the beliefs that he had, to speak truth to power when the rest of the people around him said, “No, no, you’re going to lose your championship,” and it was taken away from him for five years, but he stood up and was willing to take that kind of a risk because of that kind of moral integrity.
So I want to say how do we honour Muhammad Ali? And the answer is the way to honour Muhammad Ali is to be Muhammad Ali today. That means us, everyone here and everyone listening. It’s up to us to continue that ability to speak truth to power. We must speak out, refuse to follow a path of conformity to the rules of the game in life. We must refuse to follow the path of conformity. Tell the 1% who own 80% of the wealth of this country that it’s time to share that wealth. Tell the politicians who use violence worldwide and then preach non-violence to the oppressed that it’s time for them to end their drone warfare and every other kind of warfare, to close our military bases around the world, to bring the troops home.
Tell those who created mass incarceration that it’s time to create a living income for everyone in our society. Tell judges to let out of prison the many African-Americans swept up by racist police and imprisoned by racist judges.
Many of them in prison today for offences like possessing marijuana that white people get away with all the time. Tell our elected officials to imprison those who authorise torture and those who ran big banks and investment companies that caused the economic collapse of 2008. Tell the leaders of Turkey to stop killing the Kurds. Tell Israeli prime minister Netanyahu that the way to get security is for Israel to stop the occupation of the West Bank and help create a Palestinian State.
Tell the next president of the United States that she —Tell the next president of the United States that she should seek a Constitutional Amendment to make all national and state elections funded by congress and the state legislatures and all other sources of money be banned, including money from corporations, from individuals, all other money, make it all public funding.
Tell her that the way to achieve homeland security is not for us to try new ways of domination. The strategy of domination of the world of the other to get security has been tried for the last 10,000 years and it doesn’t work. The way to get security is for the United States to become known as the most generous and caring country in the world, not the most powerful.
We could start with a global and domestic marshall plan to once and for all end global and domestic poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care. I want to affirm our commitment to the well-being of all muslims on this planet as well as the people of all faiths and secular humanists as well. We wish to pay honour to the muslims of the world as they continue today the fast of Ramadan and join with them in mourning the loss and celebrating the life of Muhammad Ali. A great fighter for justice and peace. Peace be upon them, peace be upon the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon all of humanity and peace be on all of us. Amen.”