Ron Whitehead: Touched by Muhammad Ali

I was there when Muhammad Ali and His Holiness the Dalai Lama met for the first time which was during the 2003 dedication of the Chamtse Ling Temple in Bloomington, Indiana. The interfaith temple is to promote world peace and harmony. The temple is the dream of Thubten Jigme Norbu who was the Dalai Lama’s brother.

A few minutes before this meeting took place I recited part of my poem “Searching for Abraham Lincoln” to Muhammad Ali. I had completed the lines “float like a butterfly/sting like a bee/oh Muhammad oh Muhammad won’t you please help me/cause I’m searching for Abraham Lincoln” when two Secret Service agents grabbed me from behind and threw me up against the wall and nearly killed me. They asked me what in the world I thought I was doing. I said “reciting a poem to Muhammad Ali.”

Ali came over and reached his hand through their arms and grabbed my hand and squeezed it real hard and looked me in the eyes and nodded then motioned to the agents to come on. They walked outside and climbed into a black SUV. I walked up to the temple and watched as The Dalai Lama and Muhammad Ali met for the first time.

Photo is by my longtime friend Jeremy Hogan who was official photographer for the event.
Ron Whitehead, Gonzo Today Poetry Editor