Washington, D.C — This afternoon, Sidney Poitier received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom. Sidney Poitier was one of 16 recipients of the nation’s highest civilian honor. The Bahamian with roots in Cat Island was at the White House to receive his honour from President Obama who made the following statement about Sidney Poitier as he received the highest honour a civilian can receive in the United States.
“These outstanding men and women represent an incredible diversity of backgrounds. Their tremendous accomplishments span fields from science to sports, from fine arts to foreign affairs. Yet they share one overarching trait: Each has been an agent of change. Each saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”
Sidney Poitier’s legacy is widespread as an actor, film director, author, and diplomat. At age 82, he looked remarkably well and strong at the awards ceremony today.
Sidney Poitier grew up here in The Bahamas. At age 15 he moved to Miami, then to New York City at age 17. He struggled as an actor with the American Negro Theater before achieving his break-out role in 1955’s Blackboard Jungle where at 27, he played an unruly high school student. He received his first Academy Award nomination for his role in 1958’s The Defiant Ones. He won the Oscar for Best Actor for his role in 1963’s Lilies of the Field. He was the first black male to earn the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Other famous Sidney Poitier films included Porgy and Bess, A Raisin in the Sun, A Patch of Blue, To Sir, with Love, In the Heat of the Night, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.