Illinois Makes Muhammad Ali’s Birthday A School Holiday
Governor Pritzker signed legislation on Thursday that included a bill to add the January 17th birthday of Muhammad Ali to the list of commemorative school holidays in Illinois.
Before you say "Great, just what we need, another day off from school," I have to point out that a commemorative school holiday is not a day off from school. Commemorative school holidays recognize patriotic, civic, cultural, or historic persons on regular school days.
Thinking back to when I was a kid in school, my dad often complained that instead of staying in school and learning about a famous person who had a holiday named after them, kids would be given the day off instead. I believe that Christmas Day was the one day of the year that he was cool with me being home from school. He wasn't even keen on weekends.
Illinois Senate Bill 564 (SB0564), in addition to making Muhammad Ali's birthday a commemorative school holiday, "requires history courses to include the study of the contributions made by Americans of different faith practices, including, but not limited to, Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, Christian Americans, Hindu Americans, Sikh Americans, Buddhist Americans, and any other community of faith that has shaped America."
There is absolutely no shortage of interesting information about Muhammad Ali available, as I found when doing some research for this post. Many of the "fun facts" about Ali are pretty well known, but I learned something new this morning, and it might be my favorite Muhammad Ali fact. It's about how he became a fighter to begin with, back when he was a kid named Cassius Clay.
When the 12-year-old Clay’s beloved bicycle was stolen in October 1954, he reported the theft to Louisville, Kentucky, police officer Joe Martin and vowed to pummel the culprit. Martin, who was also a boxing trainer, suggested that the upset youngster first learn how to fight, and he took Clay under his wing. Six weeks later, Clay won his first bout in a split decision.