Video: Bryant Gumbel ’70 eulogy for Muhammad Ali

Bryant Gumbel ’70 was among the eulogists at Muhammad Ali’s memorial service on June 10 in Louisville, Ky.

As a 17-year-old in his hometown of Chicago, Gumbel met Ali for the first time. As a broadcast journalist, he interviewed Ali many times and became a close friend.

Speaking to Ali’s legacy, Gumbel quoted Maya Angelou, who said that although people will “forget what you said” and “forget what you did,” people will “never forget how you made them feel.”

People may forget details of Ali’s life, Gumbel said. “But I doubt any of us will ever forget how Muhammad Ali made us feel.”

Gumbel was “not talking about how proud he made us feel for his exploits…. I am talking about how he gripped our hearts and our souls and our conscience and made our fights his fights for decades.”

“He gave us levels of strength and courage we didn’t even know we had.”

As a black man growing up in the 1960s and into the 1970s, Gumbel said that he and others will “never forget what he freed within us. Some of us, like him, took pride in being black, bold, and brash. And because we were so unapologetic, we were, in the eyes of many, way too uppity. We were way too arrogant.”

Ali defied those race-based notions about how one should behave. “We reveled in being like him,” Gumbel said. “By stretching society’s boundaries as he did, he gave us levels of strength and courage we didn’t even know we had.”

Gumbel praised Ali for his battles, on many other fronts, on behalf of human dignity.

At various times in his life, Ali “accepted and led battles: on behalf of his race, in support of his generation, in defense of his religious beliefs, and, ultimately, in spite of his disease,” Gumbel said.

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