DATELINE: Birds of a Feather
In the mid-1960s two men we admired were considered lightweights, irreverent wannabes, and actually despised in many circles. They were red flags on a snowy field. They stood out, but were considered jokes.
We refer to Ronald Reagan and Cassius Clay. Their respective worlds of politics and boxing were vanilla ice cream when they began to emerge from the wings.
Reagan was a second-rate movie star who did television hosting, and Clay was a blabbermouth walking joke in sports.
Within a few years Reagan was elected governor and Clay became a champion, but that did not guarantee respect. It grew worse when Clay became Muhammad Ali and resisted the Vietnam War and claimed to be a conscientious objector.
Reagan saw his conservative roots battered in the Goldwater defeat, and his California political career was considered a fluke.
By the end of the next decade, they had moved on to becoming social giants, icons of Americana. They crossed paths in the 1980s at their peaks.
Yet, in old age, the cruelty of life and influence turned on them.
Reagan’s conservative Republicanism was hijacked by extremists, and the peace that Ali thought was part of Islam was taken over by jihad terrorists.
Each man also suffered the debilitating effects on body and mind of disease: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, that robbed them of strength and acuity in their last years.
The world each man hoped to change went awry from their original goals, but we have to admire each for their resolute attempt to do their best for humanity.