Monday, June 7, 2010

Too Early to Call

When Cassius Marcellus Clay arrived on the scene, he was a wonder to behold. Full of power of word and spirit, he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. He could outtalk you, outrun you, outhit you and outthink you. He was pretty and he was untouchable.

When Muhammad Ali confronted a country asking him to fight in a war he did not believe in and could not defend, the system began to attack him. It sapped him of some of his bravado, took away not only his livelihood but threatened to take away his liberty. The war in a foreign land changed him in ways no opponent in the ring could.

When an older Ali returned to the ring, some of the speed had disappeared and some of the skill had faded. While he still had the gift of gab, he could not summon up the energy of his youth. After a series of bouts with Joe Frazier, Ali emerged victorious but battered. He survived a brutal near death battle, wounded in ways that he could not understand.

Barack Obama arrived as the young Clay of this generation. He possessed a gifted intellect and exuded a spirit of drive and determination.He too could capture with the poetry of his voice and his heart . But the enormous weight of forces combined to create a presidency of unimaginable complications, slowing down our leader Like an Ali who had to face foes at every turn, Obama has been beset by both domestic and foreign enemies, bent on opposing him and everything he stands for.

We wonder why he is not the same person we first saw. We wonder why he does not have the same energy or ability to draw us in. Much like the Ali who could no longer win his battles with the strength of his personality or the punch in his arms, he has been forced to do the hard work. He can no longer enter and exit the ring with untouched face, beauty intact. For each punch he throws, he now takes one, and sometimes more in return.

The Presidency, for Obama, has been an exercise in learning to take punishment. He has thrown his haymaker, in health care reform, but it took much out of him. Like the older Ali, Obama is no longer up on his toes between rounds, dancing and waiting for the next bell. He must gather himself and take the time to regain strength and focus.

Governing, like boxing, is not for the faint of heart. Obama, much like Ali, shows evidence of an extraordinary resolve. Don't judge him as failing because he is no longer standing over his fallen foe, with arms extended, grinning broadly. Let's stop dealing in fantasy. Cassius Clay is gone forever, but Muhammad Ali, with all that time did to diminish him, emerged in the end as one of the greatest champions ever. Give Obama a chance to become like the Ali we respected as much for being able to adapt to changing circumstances, as for the innate abilities he brought to the stage in his youth.


Anonymous said...

There is no similarity between the two. Obama is the quintessence of civilty. Ali was the opposite. Obama spent his life thinking of others. Ali was rude, even to the people who helped him. I just don't get the comparison. Ted

Anonymous said...


Robert said...

the intention was to show that, much like a boxer, Obama must adapt to his circumstances.

He is no longer the young fighter who can stick and move, stick and move. He must, as an older Ali, learn to win battles in the center of the ring, or maybe even with the rope a dope. That was the comparison I was trying to make.

I was suggesting that many find Obama a failure for not exhibiting the same qualities each and every day that he showed on the campaign trail. Governing does not lend itself merely to soaring rhetoric but also to meat and endless discussion and give and take.To expect anything else is not realistic or warranted.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but you described Obama as a young Clay

Anonymous said...

I like this piece... Good work, Robert