President Biden Shares Tribute to Late Sidney Poitier: ‘Changed the Way America Saw Itself’

by Samantha Whidden
(Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images)

Following the news that Sidney Poitier passed away at 94-years-old, President Joe Biden declared the Hollywood icon as being a ‘once-in-a-generation’ actor.

In a statement from the White House, President Biden announced that he and First Lady Jill Biden are saddened to learn of Sidney Poitier’s passing. “Sidney was more than just one of the finest actors in our history.  His iconic performances in films like The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and In the Heat of the Night held a mirror up to America’s racial attitudes in the 1950s and 1960s.”

President Biden also stated that with “unflinching grandeur and poise” Poitier helped open the hearts of millions and changed the way America saw itself. “The son of tomato farmers in the Bahamas. Sidney became the first Black man to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. But the trail he blazed extended leaps and bounds beyond his background or profession.  He blazed a path for our Nation to follow, and a legacy that touches every part of our society today.”

President Biden went on to add that he and Jill send their love and prayers to Sidney Poitier’s wife, Joanna. As well as his daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. “May God bless Sidney Poitier.”

As previously reported, the Bahamas’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fred Mitchell, confirmed Sidney Poitier’s death Friday (January 7th). The late actor began his acting career in 1946 after serving in a U.S. Army’s medical unit. He starred in a Broadway production of Lysistrata. He then made his feature film debut in 1950.

Nearly a decade after his debut, he starred in The Defiant Ones. Sidney Poitier’s acting in the film earned him his first Oscar nomination. He eventually became the first black man to win an Academy Award. 

President Obama & Clinton Also Pay Tribute to Sidney Poitier 

Along with President Biden, former President Obama paid tribute to the late Sidney Poitier. According to Deadline, President Obama awarded Poitier with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This is the highest civilian honor. It was for his artistic and humanitarian achievements. 

In his tribute on Twitter, President Obama declared, “Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together. He also opened doors for a generation of actors. Michelle and I send our love to his family and legion of fans.”

With the incredible tribute, President Obama shared a snapshot of him, Sidney Poitier, and former First Lady Michelle Obama posing together during the Presidential Medal of Freedom ceremony. 

Former President Clinton also shared a special tribute on Twitter for Poitier. “Sidney Poitier changed Hollywood, America. [And] the world forever through his many unforgettable performances, & through the strength, grace, & dignity he radiated both on-screen and off. I’ll always be deeply grateful that I had the chance to spend time with him through the years.”