Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, October 27, 2019

Muhammad Ali: Champion of Freedom

Throughout 2012, the National Constitution Center served as the national headquarters of the Constitution’s 225th anniversary celebration. The 24th annual Liberty Medal ceremony honored 2012 recipient Muhammad Ali on Thursday, September 13, 2012 at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia.

Muhammad Ali is a champion of freedom who embodies everything the award was established to honor: individuals of courage and conviction who strive to secure the blessings of liberty to people around the globe. He has long served as an icon of the American dream�while challenging and expanding the very definition of "We the People."

Olympic gold medalist and boxing legend. Outspoken fighter for religious and civil rights. Conscientious objector who took his battle to the Supreme Court and won. Ambassador for peace and justice worldwide. Tireless humanitarian and philanthropist. Even as he celebrated his 70th birthday this year, Ali continued to break new ground as an advocate for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease, a disease he has bravely battled.

Ali has long stood for the ideals of our founding document. He was selected in 1987 by the California Bicentennial Foundation for the U.S. Constitution to personify the vitality of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. 

"It is incredibly fitting that Muhammad Ali, a representative for the bicentennial of the Constitution, be awarded the prestigious Liberty Medal in 2012, as the nation celebrates the 225th anniversary of our founding document," said President Bill Clinton, Chair of the National Constitution Center. "Ali embodies the spirit of the Liberty Medal by embracing the ideals of the Constitution � freedom, self-governance, equality, and empowerment � and helping to spread them across the globe." 

"Muhammad Ali symbolizes all that makes America great, while pushing us as a people and as a nation to be better,’" said National Constitution Center President and CEO David Eisner. "Each big fight of his life has inspired a new chapter of civic action. We look forward to welcoming him back to the Center, particularly during this momentous 225th anniversary year." 

Ali has devoted his life to humanitarian causes, fighting for world peace, equal rights, religious liberty, hunger relief, and cross-cultural understanding.  His work as an ambassador for peace began in 1985, when he flew to Lebanon to secure the release of four hostages.  Ali also has made goodwill missions to Afghanistan and North Korea; delivered medical aid to Cuba; traveled to Iraq to secure the release of 15 United States hostages during the first Gulf War; and journeyed to South Africa to meet Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison. His recent attempt to free the American hikers held captive in Iran reinforces his tireless commitment to promoting freedom, justice, and humanity around the world.

In addition to his international efforts, Ali is equally devoted to service at home. He has visited countless soup kitchens and hospitals and helped organizations including the Make-A-Wish-Foundation and the Special Olympics. He also annually participates in "Celebrity Fight Night," which generates funds for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Research Center at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. 

In November 2005, Ali and his wife Lonnie opened the Muhammad Ali Center in their hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. The Ali Center inspires children and adults to be as great as they can be and encourages people around the globe to commit to personal growth, integrity, and respect for others. 

The 2012 Liberty Medal ceremony marked Ali’s return to the National Constitution Center. At a special Flag Day ceremony on June 14, 2003 � just before the Center’s official opening � he was the first to raise the American flag that hangs in the Grand Hall Overlook and had previously flown over every state and territory capitol. 

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