July 10th would have been the 68th birthday for former tennis star Arthur Ashe. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia he was the winner of three grand slam titles. After a blood transfusion for a necessary heart surgery; however, he contracted AIDS that later marked his untimely death.
But, beyond his legacy as one of the world’s top tennis players and a handful of African Americans to prevail in tennis, he had an even greater legacy.
Despite his significant contributions within the sports arena, he found ways to imagine beyond his immediate purview. Ashe was an ABC Sports news commentator and founder of the National Junior Tennis League. Later, he founded the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the Defeat of AIDS, among other accomplishments. Ashe also led the field and trends of those sports heroes who really gives back to others.
Not only that, but he had a courageous fight against AIDS. That can only be unimaginable. Without knowing it, he faced the debilitating condition and later went on to become a worldwide spokesperson for the incurable illness. What stamina he must have had to face his ailment while advocating for greater awareness and research!
By the same token, he used his tennis star status to leave a lasting legacy standing up to racial injustice. In 1985, for instance, he was arrested for protesting at the South African Embassy in Washington, DC against the atrocity of apartheid. Later in 1992, he was arrested for the backlash against Haitian refugees. He reminded comfortable celebrities and apathetic citizens that making a difference is imperative.
With the legacy of Arthur Ashe there can are many ways to reflect upon a giant among leaders who made history time and again. Thank goodness he served up a lifetime lesson in leadership for others to follow.
-Dawn McCoy, author of Leadership Building Blocks: An Insider’s Guide to Success