Create successful ePaper yourself
Turn your PDF publications into a flip-book with our unique Google optimized e-Paper software.
THE GREEN PLATFORM
The Miracle Walks
Of Ali And Alex
DEEP and lasting change is a heroic journey. Sometimes in our
efforts to complete a particular journey in our life, we bite off
more than we can chew and end up disappointed when we fail.
Other times, though we find the hero inside ourselves and this
is witnessed in the growing numbers who are exercising at a time
when ironically we also see a huge rise in obesity in our country.
Everything is relative — for some a 5k or a 10k might be that
goal to feel good and for others, it might be to complete shorter,
personal journeys that are absolutely immense victories for them.
I’ve seen some of those achievements by people over the years
where these journeys were completed with both courage and
conviction. Some were just over 26 miles long and others were only
five steps long.
I had the privilege of introducing the great Muhammad Ali to
an Irish audience in Dublin at a charity dinner organised by Dr
Pearse Lyons, president and founder of the Alltech company
some years ago.
I was with the great boxing legend and his wife, Lonnie,
backstage as the MC was talking to the audience. Ali was sitting
in a chair, shaking with his Parkinson’s disease. My script was
simple. Just say, with as much power and passion as possible: “And
now, ladies and gentlemen, a big warm Irish céad míle fáilte for
the greatest, Muhammad Ali.”
The directions were clear. Give Ali the nod to stand up and walk
LIVING THE GREEN PLATFORM
to the curtain as I was bellowing out, boxing ring-like, the
I looked at Ali and nodded to be sure he was okay. He nodded
back. When he stood up, he smiled. Chin up. Head back. He was
ready. As he started to walk, I began my introduction. I could have
been in Madison Square Garden introducing a world
championship fight. But I saw clearly within a millisecond that
my speaking was much quicker than Ali’s ability to put one foot
past the other.
I just got as far as saying: “And now ladies and gentlemen a big
warm Irish céad míle fáilte for …” but Ali had only moved two steps.
His jaw was square. He had that same steely determination he
needed in those nights he fought Joe Frazier, George Foreman and
Sonny Liston. He had refused to use a wheelchair and was fighting
harder than he did against those opponents inside the ring to walk
out and greet his Dublin audience.
He had moved only two steps, and I was stuck. I had totally
overestimated his walking speed. He takes the third step and I say:
“A living legend.” I pause. He takes a fourth step. I go on: “The most
recognised face on the planet …” and then he takes his fifth step
and just before he splits the curtain I say: “The greatest,
He got a standing ovation. The longest one I’ve ever seen or
heard. By the time it was over he had been helped to a chair where
he was happy to sit down.
Those five steps had taken an awful lot out of him but he has
been fighting for a bigger cause than just a boxing payday for these
past three decades since he retired.
His wife, Lonnie, said that boxing was only ever a vehicle for
him to do what he’s doing now; raising millions for his charity as
he continues to encourage every man, woman and child in the world
to be the greatest they can be.
I was humbled to be beside him as he completed those five steps
with immense courage and conviction. In those five steps, I saw
THE MIRACLE WALKS OF ALI AND ALEX
the ‘Rumble in the Jungle,’ and the ‘Thrilla in Manila’. He did it not
because he had to do it but because he wanted to do it. It gives him
purpose and meaning every day. With those five steps he
conquered yet again his personal Everest.
Alexander is our third child. He has a rare medical condition
called Mowat-Wilson syndrome. He was the first child in Ireland
discovered to be suffering from it as a baby.
He is now 11 years old. He will never talk. He can do a little walk
if heavily assisted by Annette, his mother, or Genevieve or Fionn
(his sister and brother) or by his godmother, Mary, or his visiting
nurse, Liz, who all help make his life so worthwhile.
He hasn’t eaten for over eight years because he gets his food
into his system through a tube into his stomach. He’s also doubly
We are all in awe of him in our house. He is the most magical
and magnetic child you could ever imagine. Every morning he goes
on his special bus to St Catherine’s in Newcastle, Co Wicklow where
the people there do amazing work with him and with all his
special needs friends.
Before Christmas a few years ago they even staged a nativity
play. Alexander was St Joseph. In the rehearsals, he was great at
knocking on the doors of inns that were full and closed to weary
travellers with a donkey.
However, during the play itself, as soon as he saw the audience
he became more interested in waving at us and clapping his
hands on the stage than knocking on inn doors.
All the actors in the nativity play had members of the staff
helping them move around as some were in wheelchairs and
some needed assistance to stand upright.
In the midst of it all, Alexander turned around and took off. He
walked five steps across the stage on his own. Unaided.
Jane, who looked after his class was so excited afterwards. “Did
you see him walking five steps on his own. Could you imagine him
doing anything like that last year?”
LIVING THE GREEN PLATFORM
Like Ali, he conquered his own personal Everest that day in the
nativity play by walking those five steps.
So if you’ve given up on exercise or working harder to get
promotion or any other personal challenge, think of Ali and Alex
and then realise what you are capable of doing in your life.
Their ‘marathons’ were just five steps each but what a
magnificent achievement for the two of them. Your journey of 1,000
miles begins with just five steps.
In the book, The Green Platform, chapter 11 is about Alexander
and the positive impact he has on everyone he meets. The chapter
is called Meet Alexander the Greatest.
Every day is a new beginning only waiting for you to start your
own heroic journey and be inspired by “The Greatest, Muhammad
Ali” and “Alexander The Greatest” so that you too can become the
greatest you can be.
Red Platform: “What’s the point? It’s only five steps. Where’s
that wheelchair? Where’s Jane?”
Green Platform: Every step in the right direction matters.
Five or five thousand. “I can do it, one step at a time.”