Muhammad Ali was back home on Thursday night to honour an ex-president, Grammy winners and young adults for their roles in fighting for humanitarian causes.
The former heavyweight boxing champion was surrounded by family and friends for the awards presentation that turned into a main event in Louisville, drawing business and political leaders. Recipients of the inaugural Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards included former President Jimmy Carter and singers Christina Aguilera and Michael Bolton.
Ali’s wife, Lonnie, said the awards represent an extension of Ali’s legacy of promoting social causes, his focus since his retirement from boxing in 1981.
“This is what we’ve always dreamed about, passing the torch on to others and inspiring them to do the work that he has done himself around the world,” she said. “A lot of the things he used to do around the world he can’t do anymore. So it’s important to support those who can, who are doing the good work.”
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“I have so much admiration and so much respect and love for someone who truly has been a fighter in so many different ways,” said Aguilera, who received the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award.
Aguilera was recognised for her role as an anti-hunger ambassador for the United Nations World Food Programme. She also has been a global advocate for fast-food company Yum Brands Inc.’s World Hunger Relief campaign to raise awareness and money to end hunger.
“The thing that makes me the most happy is to be able to help other people and make them feel good,” she told The Associated Press. “To be recognised for that is a great thing, because I hope to inspire others to reach out and use their own abilities.”
Carter, the nation’s 39th president and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, received a lifetime achievement award bearing Ali’s name. Carter was unable to attend, and his son Chip accepted the award on his father’s behalf. The former president, who turned 89 on Tuesday, has crisscrossed the world since leaving the White House to promote efforts to resolve conflict, promote democracy, protect human rights and prevent disease in many of the world’s poorest countries.
Chip Carter called Ali a close family friend and said the boxing great used his influence to help promote peace and human rights in Africa during the Carter presidency.
Bolton received the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Gender Equity.
The singer-songwriter was recognised for his work with women’s groups and members of Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act. He continues to raise awareness about domestic violence and has helped enlist other men to take up the cause of eradicating it.
Meanwhile, six young adults and teenagers from around the world received Ali Humanitarian awards for exemplifying core principles espoused by Ali. Those principles are confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, respect and spirituality.
Winners include a 25-year-old Ugandan who formed an anti-poverty organisation that promotes self-reliance and an American teenager who started a foundation that has provided shoes to thousands of homeless and disadvantaged children.