Sunday, January 29, 2017

How To Change The Minds Of People Who Voted For Trump

I know that many people are frightened and angry because of the actions of the Trump administration, and rightly so. It's very tempting to express that fear and anger by insulting or verbally abusing those who voted for and/or support Trump. But doing so, while it might make you feel better in the moment, is not going to have any positive impact. Have opposition criticisms of a leader you support, be it Obama, Bush, or Clinton, ever convinced you to change your mind? Or did the attack on "your" leader simply cause you to harden your heart further? It may take a while, but I think the most effective approach is to simply ask, and keep asking, consistently, continuously, and in many different ways, "How does this specific Trump administration policy make you personally better off? We are not going to change minds by calling Trump a racist, a misogynist, or a demagogue. Many of his supporters may very well prefer a whiter, more male-dominated America, where educated "elites" exercise less power. To put it in terms my Silicon Valley friends will recognize, to Trump's supporters, these are features, not bugs. But many people voted for Trump because they felt that he was the only candidate offering them potential solutions that would better their lives--less globalization, fewer immigrants, more jobs for "real" Americans. Trump's solutions are unlikely to work. Cajoling a small number of companies to preserve a small number of American factory jobs is not going to help more than a infinitesimally small proportion of people who voted for Trump. I believe that Trump and his team realize this, and believe that their best chance to keep those voters from realizing that the Trump administration is going to make their lives worse, rather than better, is to keep them distracted by trying to focus their attention on "enemies," be they foreigners or those coastal liberals who look down on "real" Americans. I'm not arguing against protests or condemnation of the Trump administration. These seem to me to be justifiable and potentially useful. But reaching out to people who voted for Trump requires a different approach. And in a year or two, when they are still working the same job (or not working) and their lives have not improved one iota, I think they may very well start to listen.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Mathematical Formula for Success

If failure is more likely than success, what is the formula for success?

If you're really lucky, you might succeed right away.  In that case, you could retire immediately and rest on your laurels.  But this seems unsatisfying.  Very few people have the willpower to walk away from the roulette wheel right after they win, and even if you do, you have to put up with hearing the "L" word (lucky) being used to describe you for the rest of your life.

Most people concentrate on maximizing their chances of success.  "If I just think hard enough," these folks say to themselves, "I can plan my way to success."  Yet while intelligence, hard work, and brilliant insight can increase the chances of success, they certainly don't guarantee it.  As the smart, hard-working, and very-successful Mark Pincus likes to say about his startup Tribe, "I started one of the first three social networks, and I still managed to fail."  There doesn't seem to be a way to tilt the odds fully in your favor.

The best strategy seems to be to increase your number of attempts to succeed, or "shots on goal" as they might say in soccer (football) or hockey.  Yet while this increases both your expected number of successes, and reduces the chances of getting ended up with zero successes, the numbers game doesn't change the expected value of each attempt.

To make the numbers game work, you have to do two other critical things, in additional to increasing your shots on goal:

First, you have to reduce the cost of failure so that even a string of failures doesn't take you out of the game.  If you're forced to leave the table when you're down, you'll never end up in the black.  Reducing the cost of failure can also improve your expected value.

Second, you have to aim high (though not so high as to eliminate the chances of success) so that the rewards of each success far outweigh the costs of the failures along the way.

We can write this equation as follows:

Success = Sum (1 to N, where N = #Attempts) for f (Chance of Success * Benefits of Success - [1 - Chance of Success] * Cost of Failure)

(Feel free to offer a better mathematical statement in the comments; I'm not a mathematician!)

Successful venture capitalists try to solve for this equation.

VC funds invest in 20+ companies per fund, giving them a very good chance that they'll have at least one success, and a good chance to have more than one.

But funds also reduce the cost of failure by investing smaller amounts up front and doubling down on what appear likely to be the winners in the portfolio.  The option value to abandon investments that don't seem to be working helps reduce the average cost of failure in the portfolio.

Finally, venture capitalists focus on "venture scale" investments--startups that could conceivably be worth billions of dollars.  These outside outcomes (such as Amazon, Google, and Facebook) can make up for a multitude of failures.

(Note that VC firms also try to increase the chances of success by providing useful advice, key introductions, and useful services, but these efforts supplement, rather than replace, the three principles outlined above).

Nor do you have to be a wealthy venture capitalist to follow this strategy.  I'm employed it in my own life, by being open to interesting and unusual opportunities, avoiding any that risked my financial or professional ruin, and prioritizing potential upside over what I believe is the illusory sense of safety.

I have failed many more times than I care to remember, but because I kept the costs of my failures low and stayed in the game, people only seem to remember my successes!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

(Yet More) Things To Do In Palm Springs

This year, we've continued our practice of using Palm Springs as a convenient getaway during our standard winter vacation in LA.  Despite Palm Springs being a small town (population 43,000), we're still finding new places to visit.

The highlight of the trip was our visit to the Palm Springs Air Museum.  For an aviation and history buff like me, it was a great way to spend the day.  While this museum is small in comparison to, say, the Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum, its tight focus on American military aircraft from WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War allows it to cover its chosen topics in much greater depth than I've ever seen elsewhere.

Throughout the museum, I learned things that I never knew before.  As an example, despite having read seemingly endless books on military aviation in my childhood, today was the first time that I learned why the Dauntless dive bomber went by the designation "SBD" (the program that developed the plane called for a Scout/Bomber, and since the plane was produced by Douglas Aircraft, a final "D" was added).

The museum also benefits from its laser focus on the actual airplanes.  I've never seen so many historic airplanes in one place, including almost every major American warplane from WWII.  It even features lesser-known planes like the PBY Catalina.  The only planes missing were the B-24 and B-29 bombers (the B-24 is very rare, with just 7 remaining examples in the US; the B-29 was probably too massive to fit into the museum).

While the entire day was awesome, two highlights stand out.  First, the museum has dedicated one of its hangers to its B-17 Flying Fortress, one of just 10 flight-capable B-17s left in the world.  Not only was it amazing to see a piece of history in person, we were even able to climb into the plane and crawl from the cockpit, through the bomb bay, all the way to the tail of the plane.  It was difficult for me to clamber through the fuselage while it was standing still in a well-lit hanger; I can only imagine the challenge of doing so while the bomber was flying at 35,000 feet, engines droning at deafening levels, wearing an oxygen mask, machine guns blazing while Luftwaffe fighters attacked!


Second, the museum is well-staffed with volunteer docents, most of whom are veterans of the US military.  One of the docents, Jim (USN, retired) spent about 45 minutes with us, answering questions and telling stories.  Essentially, we got a private tour!  Another docent coached me through a takeoff (successful) and landing (almost successful) on the F-22 flight simulator.  If you visit the museum, definitely take advantage of the knowledge of the docents!

The museum is busy building its newest hanger, which will house its Korea- and Vietnam-era jets (which include an F-4, F-100, F-102, F-104, F-105, F-14, F-16, and F-18).  I'm looking forward to returning to see the new hanger and exhibits when they're ready.

Of course, no vacation would be complete without eating.  We had two enjoyable, new dining experiences this time.  For lunch, we visited the El Paseo Grill in Palm Desert.  It's not fancy (though it does have a lot of cool art on the walls), but it is quite tasty.  I had a spicy chicken sandwich with Jamaican jerk sauce.  The chicken was perfectly cooked, the sauce was spicy but not too spicy, and the bun (I indulge in carbs when I'm on vacation) had a satisfying surface crunch, but was soft and chewy on the inside.

We also had an early dinner at TRIO Restaurant.  TRIO offers a great deal--the three-course prix fixe meal, which is available from 11 AM to 6 PM every day, is just $19.95.  We had their fried calamari, roasted beet salad, steak frites, and steak salad, with bread pudding and brownie for dessert.  The food and service were excellent, which helps explain why the restaurant was busy, even at 5:30 PM on a Wednesday.  It's a very canny business model; the prix fixe deal helps maintain high utilization at off-peak times.  Meanwhile, when we left the restaurant at around 6:15, it was approaching capacity as the less price-sensitive crowd streamed in.  They even offer a separate happy hour menu, which we will have to sample another time.

The only disappointment was that rain started pouring down shortly after dinner, which caused us to cancel our trip to the WildLights festival at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.  As much as I hate to let our tickets go unused, getting drenched is not my idea of a fun vacation.  Hopefully we get a chance to go next year!

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Are you doing everything in your power to win the game you've chosen to play?

Little known fact: I am the Michael Jordan of family game nights.  Over decades of gameplay, I am undefeated across a variety of games, ranging from Trivial Pursuit to Cranium.  And like Michael Jordan, I play to win with a ruthlessness that borders on the pathological.

(This, by the way, is why I've vowed never to play Risk again--every game of Risk I've ever been involved with ends in a fight.)

But I normally don't think about the rest of my life as a game.  Maybe I should.

I just had a mind-expanding conversation with the redoubtable Rob Siegel, the Teaching VC.  Rob asks his students at Stanford's business school a very pointed set of questions:

What is the game you've chosen to play?

What is the unfair advantage that gives you an edge over everyone else?

Are you doing everything in your power to win?

Rob's questions hit home for me.  I'm pretty darn lucky in terms of what I get to do with my life.  The work I do is pleasant, prestigious, and rewarding.  I have everything that money can't buy.  But maybe because of that, I've been content to be an incrementalist.

I tinker with the levers in my life, making small changes here and there, trying to make things just a little bit better.  Since my big picture is pretty good, I've focused on the little picture.

Rob's questions have me thinking that I need to make sure that I periodically think about the big picture--specifically, how I intend to spend my next decade.

What is the game you've chosen to play?

What is the unfair advantage that gives you an edge over everyone else?

Are you doing everything in your power to win?

Rob points out what another wise friend, Kashi Tahir, has also expressed.  I generally do things I'm comfortable with.  Fortunately, doing things I'm comfortable with has delivered pretty good results so far.  But the question isn't whether I've had an impact--the question is whether I've maximized my impact.

Why am I Michael Jordan on game night, and Mr. Rogers in my professional life?  Maybe it's because this is how Michael Jordan acted at times.  But there's plenty of room on the continuum between asshole and Care Bear.

What is the game you've chosen to play?

What is the unfair advantage that gives you an edge over everyone else?

Are you doing everything in your power to win?

These are questions I'll be pondering for a while.  What feelings do they evoke in you?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Hard Work AND Decisive Moments

When it comes to telling the story behind their success, most people will either tout the value of hard work, or tell the story of how a single decisive moment changed their life forever.  In reality, you have to do both.

If you focus solely on hard work, you overlook the importance of being ready to be decisive when the right opportunity presents itself.

If you focus solely on decisive moments, you feed the notion that success is based on luck rather than effort.

This past week, I went on a Paly High freshman trip to Yosemite with my son, Jason.  Long-time readers and friends will probably know that camping is just about the only thing I'd be less likely to attend than Burning Man.  The things we do for our children....

Along the way, I had the pleasure of sharing a car and a cabin with Will, one of the other parent chaperones.  Will has led a fascinating life, with plenty of hard work and decisive moments.

In 1967, he was drafted into the Army.  During infantry training, another trainee foolishly tried to pry open a misfire and triggered an explosion that sent shrapnel into Will's knee.  After reconstructive surgery, he wasn't able to continue his training, so he was assigned to night guard duty at the base's computer center.  One night, the warrant officer in charge of the computer center was having trouble getting an important report to print.  Will saw what he was doing wrong, and broke protocol to offer his help.  The officer, who really needed that report right away, forgave the breach and accepted the help, then told Will to report to him the next day.  The officer promptly pulled Will out of the infantry, promoted him, and put him to work running the computer center.  He spent his entire tour of duty working on computers, and never did ship out for Vietnam.  When he was discharged, he got a job at IBM, and worked there for nearly 40 years.

On the one hand, Will clearly experienced a decisive moment.  If hadn't spoken up that one night, he might never have caught an officer's eye, and he could have been sent to fight and possibly die in Vietnam.  That moment changed the course of his entire life.

On the other hand, that moment was only possible because of hard work.  Will's dad was one of IBM's top scientists, and Will had spent his entire childhood playing with electronics and IBM computers.  The only reason he was in the Army was that, like many a hacker before him, he found school boring, and flunked out of college, losing his draft deferment.

(Will experienced another key decisive moment, which led to him becoming the world's leading expert on color calibrating high-end projectors and televisions, which in turn led to his working with Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and many of the world's greatest directors, but that is a story you'll have to get from him!)

In my own life, I've experienced decisive moments, like being asked to collaborate with Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha on the ideas that became The Alliance.  Like Will, that was a single decisive moment that changed the course of my life.  But it was only possible because I had spent the previous decade thinking about those ideas and writing over 2,000 blog posts.

Success is about hard work AND decisive moments.  The hard work builds your skills and brings you the opportunities.  But you still have to have the courage to seize them when they present themselves.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Donate to a Great Cause and Talk With Me

On September 17th, my son Jason will be swimming in the Aquathon to benefit Abilities United, a great organization with a great mission--helping adults and children with disabilities be included and appreciated.

As usual, I'm going to leverage the power of the internet to advance this cause!

If you go to Jason's Aquathon page and donate $100, I'll be happy to schedule a phone call with you to discuss whatever topic you choose (your startup, the state of the Los Angeles Lakers, or any other topic that doesn't violate the laws of the United States).

If you donate $500, I'll meet with you in person in general vicinity of Palo Alto.

If you donate $10,000, I'll be happy to fly to your location and meet with you! (No war zones, please)

You can find Jason's Aquathon page here:
http://www.abilitiesunitedevents.org/page.aspx?pid=405&tab=0&frsid=3738

Happy Labor Day!

Saturday, August 06, 2016

What I Think About The 2016 US Presidential Election

I'm not going to waste time explaining why I think Donald Trump should not be president.  That dead horse has already been thoroughly pulverized.  Instead, I'd like to discuss why Trump's candidacy matters, and what we ought to learn from it and do about it.

Even though the press narrative this week is that Trump's support has "collapsed," he is still currently projected to receive 42.6% of the popular vote, to Hillary Clinton's 49.1%.  And this is despite running an incompetent, amateurish campaign with almost no local organization and no advertising spending.  Clearly, his message resonates with a significant number of voters.

Trump's strongest base of support are white voters without a college education.  After the Republican National Convention, his lead over Clinton with this group approached 40%, better than any Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan in the 1984 election, which he won in a historic landslide.  The difference is that in 1984, these voters made up 62% of the electorate; today, that figure is about 34%.  So why does his message resonate so well with them?

I would characterize Trump's message as largely negative; he is anti-immigration, anti-globalization, and anti-establishment.  The message he sends to his voters is that the establishment has betrayed them, and has pursued policies that hurt their standard of living.

The scary thing is that he's right.  Immigration does appear to hurt the wages of low-skill workers.  American manufacturing jobs continue to decline, and globalization appears to play a role.  And the two major political parties tend to focus on issues that just don't help uneducated whites.  They don't believe in the pro-business policies of the Republican Party, or the identity politics of the Democratic Party.  Even if they agree with some of the socially conservative positions of the Republican Party, these are far less important than the economic pain they feel.

The fact is, whites without college degrees have had a terrible couple of decades. They have declined economically ("From 1979 to 2012, the median-income gap between a family headed by two earners with college degrees and two earners with high-school degrees grew by $30,000, in constant dollars") and demographically ("Since 2010, racial and ethnic minorities have accounted for 91.7 percent of all population growth in the US. The share of the US population that is foreign-born is four times what it was in 1970, having risen from 4.7 percent then to 13.1 percent in 2013").

And most of the wealthy, educated elites of the country don't seem to care.  Or more precisely, we don't have any exposure, and thus empathy for this group.  In 2015, the unemployment rate for Americans with a professional degree (like, for example, a Harvard MBA) was just 1.5%.  The figure for a those with just a high school diploma was 5.4%, and for high school dropouts, it was 8%.  The median income for professional degree holders was nearly four times that of the dropouts.  That's like the proportional difference in per capita GDP between the United States and Bulgaria.

The problem is that the wealthy, educated elites, who are concentrated on the coasts, and in big cities, are a tiny minority.  Educational attainment in the United States is at an all-time high, yet only 32% of those 25 and older have graduated from college.  College graduates are a minority, and by a wide margin.  Yet this minority controls the media, the government, and most of the wealth of the country.

Imagine if you lived in a country where a small minority controlled all the wealth and power, dominated the media and entertainment world, and seemed to revel in looking down on you as if you were a lower form of life that deserved nothing better than your squalid existence.  I suspect that's how it might feel to be a white person without a college education in the America of 2016.

Now imagine that you had a chance to stick it to that stuck-up ruling class, simply by voting for a particular candidate.  Yes, their propagandists might write endless editorials about why no one should vote for this candidate, but why would you listen to them?  They don't seem to care about, respect, or even consider you an equal.  Screw them.

It's at this point that many people start muttering about the dumb, "information-poor" voters who vote against their own economic interests.  The implication seems to be, "Isn't it a shame that we let those dumb hicks vote?"  If you believe that, you're betraying the very principles of democracy.

True democracy is based on a simple rule: One person, one vote.  You don't get more votes for being rich, or for having a fancy degree, just like you don't get more votes for belonging to a particular ethnic group.  Disenfranchising people for their education level is no better than disenfranchising them for the color of their skin.

This is as it should be!  This is the way that democracy reflects the fact that all humans have equal rights, even if they don't have equal abilities.  When we say that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the right to vote is what helps them keep that right.

If 42.6% of people plan to vote for Trump, the answer isn't to belittle them and try to berate them into changing their minds; it's to try to actually understand their motivations and desires.

People are voting for Trump because they feel like the system is rigged against them, and thus they don't see it as legitimate.  That's no different than feeling like the police are targeting you because of the color of your skin (because they are), or that you're less likely to get a promotion because you're a woman (because that's also true).

I believe we need a better social safety net, including higher-quality public education, and universal healthcare.  This doesn't mean socialism; mankind has tried socialism and capitalism clearly kicks its ass.  It makes zero sense to pay taxi drivers vastly more than doctors.  But you don't have to take away the incentives to excel in order to treat those who don't excel with compassion.  The United States is one of the richest countries in the world.  Our per-capita GDP of $53,000 is more than sufficient to reward the creators and builders, while keeping people from starving in the streets.

Donald Trump's supporters believe the system is rigged.  They're right.  The question is what we're going to do about it, since voting for Trump obviously won't help.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Miserly Safety Net: Another Modest Proposal

In the past, I've extolled the virtues of the miserly safety net, especially when it comes to housing.  It just occurred to me that it might be possible to expand this net to cover all the essentials of life.

When I think about the essentials of life in the United States, it boils down to four simple things:

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Healthcare
  • Education
We have specific programs aimed at food, healthcare (Medicaid), and education, which is why I concentrated on shelter in my last modest proposal.  But what if we aimed for an all-in-one solution?

Imagine public housing developments with the following characteristics, in addition to providing free (if spartan) accommodations:
  • Unlimited supply of Soylent-like nutrition products (this would allow people to get a free and nutritionally complete--if bland--diet)
  • Weekly clinical visits by a nurse practitioner for basic and preventative healthcare
  • Unlimited access to MOOCs, with weekly visits by an educational "concierge" to help take advantage of those offerings
Socialism?  Perhaps.  But this seems like the kind of socialism that would save money over our current, all-too-porous safety net.  It also seems like a more interesting experiment to run than a basic income program.

Friday, July 08, 2016

We Are Not Enemies

This is been a difficult week in the United States, as the tragic murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling have been followed up by the murders of at least 5 police officers in Dallas, including Brent Thompson, a grandfather who had just gotten married two weeks earlier.  Normally, I don't comment too much on this kind current event, because I fear that I have little to add to a discussion that is already filled with loud voices.  However, this time it's personal.

My wife and daughter have been in Dallas all week for the USA Fencing National Championships; Marissa competed yesterday.  Their hotel is a block away from the shootings, so close that when the attack began, they could hear the shots ring out and the screams of the crowd from the hotel swimming pool (needless to say, they got inside as quickly as possible).  They had walked through the scene of the crime several times earlier that day, and could easily have been out there during the attack.

Many people think that living in Silicon Valley is like a bubble, and they are largely correct.  As I drive from gleaming corporate campus to gleaming corporate campus, or up to the boardrooms of Sand Hill Road, it's easy to think that my little corner of the world is separate and protected.  But ultimately, we are still part of the larger world, as this week's events demonstrated to me.  These aren't someone else's problem, they're all our problem.

And the root cause of the problem is that as a society, many people have chosen to emphasize our differences rather than what we share.  These people, including prominent politicians, but also private citizens, and, even if you're not willing to admit it, probably you and me at some point, have portrayed other Americans as "the enemy."

"They just don't get it."

"I just don't understand those people."

We seem to have lost the ability to separate disagreements from hostility.

Let's be clear.  We are not enemies.  Police officers are not enemies.  The Black Lives Matter movement is not an enemy.  Even Donald Trump is not an enemy (though he sometimes talks like one).

America has real enemies, who wish to harm our country, its citizens, and their way of life.  These enemies don't recognize or care about our disagreements; the simple fact that we are Americans is enough to make us a target.

And even when engaging in combat with our enemies, regardless of their level of evil and atrocity, we should behave honorably.  We should not terrorize civilian populations, or torture prisoners.

It is human nature to want revenge.  It is our great challenge to rise above that desire to seek justice instead.  Crime should be punished, but using due process, not vigilante justice.  And if the criminal justice system is biased, it should be reformed, not circumvented at gunpoint.

In that sense, Dallas represents what's great about America as well.  In the wake of the dreadfully unjust murders of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, the protesters in Dallas assembled peacefully to advocate for reforming the system.  The officers of the Dallas PD were there to facilitate the protest, closing off streets and respectfully working with the protesters to help the rally run smoothly.  And when the shooting began, both protesters and police officers showed their heroism and bravery.  Police officers moved protesters to safety, and rushed towards the shooting to address the threat.  One protester, Shetamia Taylor, threw herself on her sons and shielded them with her body when she heard the shooting begin (she was shot in the leg, but is recovering in the hospital).

The shooters apparently targeted police officers in a misguided attempt to avenge the deaths of Castile and Sterling (and so many other black men) at the hands of police officers.  The irony of targeting innocent members of a group simply because of their membership in that group appears to have been lost on them.

We need to remember how much we share, and see each other as individuals, and groups of individuals, rather than as "the other."  We need to humanize, not dehumanize, our fellow Americans, and to work within the laws (to which we've all implicitly agreed by living here) when we want to seek change, whether that change is to reform policing practices, or to loosen restrictions on gun sales.

Laws aren't always just--Southern segregation laws were only overturned 50-60 years ago.  Law enforcement isn't always fair, and clearly wasn't in the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.  Yet vigilante justice is a poor and poorly-thought-out alternative.  Cops who won't play by the rules, and vigilantes who deal out justice to those who have perverted the system may make for entertaining movies, but they are a terrible model for real life.  Steven Pinker notes that throughout most of human history, when we lived in tribes or in a feudal system, about 15% of people died violent deaths.  Compare that to the homicide rate in the United States today, which is about 4 deaths for every 100,000 people per year, and we're orders of magnitude safer than than the bad old days of might makes right.

(Note that even this rate is a disgrace; our homicide rate is 4X that of the United Kingdom.  Also, black people are 3X as likely to be killed by police as white people.)

I doubt my words will convince those who derive power, prestige, and/or money from divisiveness to eschew their harmful tactics.  But we don't have to listen to them.  They only have power when we allow them to change our hearts and minds.  So the next time you're tempted to blast "them" on Facebook or write an angry tweet about "those people," try to resist.  They are not your enemies.  You may disagree with them, you may dislike them, but they are still fellow Americans.  You should try to change their minds peacefully, and if they react with violence, don't seek vengeance, seek justice.  Gandhi famously said, "An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind."  The protesters and police officers in Dallas understood this.  The attackers did not.

UPDATE: Here are the names of the five officers who died in the attack (via the Washington Post):
Brent Thompson, a 43-year-old transit police officer; Patrick Zamarripa, a 32-year-old police officer who served three tours in Iraq with the U.S. military; Michael Krol, a 40-year-old officer who joined the Dallas police in 2008; Lorne Ahrens, a former semi-pro football player and 14-year veteran of the Dallas police; and an officer identified in media reports as Michael Smith.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Muhammad Ali (1942 - 2016)

When Cassius Clay was born in 1942, it would take 12 more years for Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas to order the desegregation of public schools.

When Muhammad Ali died in 2016, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, tweeted, "He shook up the world, and the world's better for it. Rest in peace, Champ."

I take great heart from the demonstrated fact that the world can change a lot in three-quarters of a century.  Not only did Muhammad Ali live to see many injustices righted (though many more certainly remain), he played a major role in bringing those changes.

That's why, when he dubbed himself "The Greatest," the country came to agree with him.