Tears – Muhammad Ali – Parkinson’s

June 8, 2016

Muhammad Ali was the greatest boxer of all time as he has said so many times and that may be, I am not an expert at boxer comparison. He did have 100 amateur wins and was a huge underdog at 22 years old when he knocked out Sonny Liston, who was thought to be unbeatable, to become the heavyweight champion for the first time.

Ten years later at 32 past his prime, he, despite a forced layoff of more than 4 years, knocked out George Foreman, who was thought to be unbeatable at 26 years old, in the prime of his boxing career with a record of 40 wins and no losses (37 by knockout), to again become the heavyweight champion of the world. Muhammad Ali was bigger-than-life, legendary. 

Tears have been rolling down my cheeks off and on since I learned of Muhammad Ali’s hospitalization and subsequent death, not because the passing of any human being is a cause for sadness, though it is, and not because we lost a great athlete.

My tears reflect what Muhammad Ali has done since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He remained Muhammad Ali through over 30 years living with, fighting, dealing with, embracing this horrific disease. He kept his identity. That’s why tears roll down my cheeks, tears of admiration, tears of strength, tears of pride, tears of power, tears of hope. He was the same comedian, magician, showman, family man that he has always been.

Even in the last years of his life, he was able to rise to the occasion when an audience was present, University of Louisville football games, the Sugar Bowl coin flip, his surprise lighting of the olympic torch, among countless other occasions.

The difference that Muhammad Ali made in my life, 15 years with Parkinson’s, is to set aside the fact that I have Parkinson’s and go on living. Be lovable. Inspire others. Be the greatest John Baumann that I can be. I sure am going to give it my best shot because of a man named Muhammad Ali.


We all felt inspired and enjoyed listening to your presentation. Even though we are not living with Parkinson’s, we felt boost of motivation to continue helping those who are living with this disease. I am motivated to make more personal phone calls to people living with PD and asking how they are doing. Sometimes that “extra” bit of kindness truly makes a difference to someone. I am also motivated to research program ideas and partner with other organizations that may have similar values.

I learned that life is unexpected and that you cannot control it. What matters is your attitude!

-Great way to end the day, brave man, thank you very much!

-Good, excellent, great, outstanding speaker, very moving!

-Inspirational who just “gets it”

-Positive thinker and very funny!

-Honest speaker but also humorous!

Parkinson’s Society of Southwest Ontario, Canada, Symposium Keynote Presentation

“whatever hand life deals you, whatever life changing adversity you have to endure, you still have some control over it.” “You don’t have to just to live well,” he advises,” but live an Amazing Life.” The formula he proposes: Faith in yourself, discipline, determination, desire, intensity, and inner strength.


Yes, you touched every person at our conference, who will in turn change and impact so many others. The feedback from our participants was overwhelmingly positive. You are the only speaker to ever receive a standing ovation. Thank you for taking time to share, motivate and inspire. We are blessed to know you.


I will be honest. During the first 10 minutes of your presentation, I started reading work related material on my laptop. For surely, I had watched your You-Tube and seen your videos and knew what to expect. Surely, as a therapist I had studied this disease, the pathological components, the psychological components, the treatment alternatives……..Surely, I understand it.

Not so much. You caught my attention and I was enthralled. You were able to couple the impairments you experience with the emotions felt. You walked us through your life with the disease through “your eyes”. A perspective that a therapist/nurse rarely has the chance to hear. We get so busy telling patients how to deal with x, y and z, but our eyes are blurred by the science of it all most of the time.

You did it through truth, Through your humor, humility and determination to tell your story. One that most deservedly needs to be shared.

I will advocate to have you share your story. I appreciate your determination, diligence and dedication.