Before Muhammad Ali died in June he spoke with his wife Lonnie about turning his death into a "teachable moment." Specifically, he wanted his death to inspire others to get more involved with acts of public service. To honor her late husband, Lonnie is going to try and grant one of his final wishes by launching an initiative called Ali 75 that calls for people to volunteer 75 hours of their time over a one-year period beginning on Jan. 17, which would have been Muhammad’s 75th birthday.
On Tuesday morning, Lonnie granted her first interview since her husband's death to NBC's Matt Lauer on the Today show. The two spoke about the Ali 75 initiative, Muhammad's legacy, and how he felt about the things going on in the world at the time of his death. Lonnie admitted that, at times, he was "distressed" and "disappointed" by current events.
"He was pretty distressed, especially [with] some of the things that were going on in the world," Lonnie said. "He thought that we had crossed a line or crossed a barrier. He was a little disappointed with that. But you know, Muhammad was a man of eternal optimism. He always believed in the power of humanity. That’s what he touched in most people."
Lonnie also said she believes that "Ali is in all of us" and explained what she means by that.
"When I say 'Ali is in all of us,' I mean the humanity in all of us," she said. "Because that’s what Muhammad always touched in people, was their humanity. Regardless, he could always see it. This was something I thought about for his birthday, prior to his passing, the Ali 75 to give 75 hours of service to others. Muhammad had this saying: 'Service to others is the rent we pay for our room here on earth.' He lived that everyday of his life. Everyday of his life, he believed that, and that’s the actual path he pursued."
You can watch Lonnie’s full Today interview in the video above.