News World Obama opts for family over Ali memorial

Obama opts for family over Ali memorial

Barack Obama and daughters, Sasha (middle) and Malia (right), have been invited to the Great Barrier Reef.
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President Barack Obama has deferred to his daughter’s graduation over attending Muhammad Ali’s memorial service, US media have reported.

White House spokeswoman Jennifer Friedman says the Obamas couldn’t attend because they’ll be at their daughter Malia’s high school graduation ceremony in Washington instead.

In lieu of attending, he and first lady Michelle Obama will instead send a letter with a close aide to be read at Friday’s service, White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, who reportedly knew Ali personally.

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Ali family spokesman Bob Gunnell says Ali’s widow, Lonnie, and Obama have spoken by phone and that she appreciated the president’s “kind words and condolences.”

Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston (L) in the 1964 World Heavyweight Title fight. Photo: 1964.
Cassius Clay vs Sonny Liston (L) in the 1964 World Heavyweight Title fight. Photo: Getty.

Gunnell says two of Ali’s daughters, Rasheda and Maryum, as well as Bill Clinton, actor Billy Crystal, Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and King Abdullah of Jordan.

British former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis and actor Will Smith, who once portrayed Ali on screen, will be among the pallbearers.

After Ali’s death, Mr Obama admitted he kept a pair of his gloves in his private study below the photograph of Ali beating Sonny Liston in 1964.

Ali would be remembered, he said earlier this week, “not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us.”

– with BBC.

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