Sidney Poitier's image, cropped from Civil Rig...

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Sidney Poitier is well known as one of the greatest actors of his generation, and was the first black person to win an Academy Award in 1963.

Such is his contribution to movie making that he was ranked the 22nd greatest male actor of all-time by the American Film Institute in 1999 and in 2009 was granted the Presidential Medal of freedom by President Barack Obama.

However it is the ground that he broke in becoming the first genuine mainstream black film star and the continued dignity, class and resilience that he has consistently displayed throughout his career that makes him an inspirational person to me.

Whilst he is revered today, he certainly didn’t have a glamorous start to his career and when you read about the hurdles that he has overcome you realise that people can overcome anything if they put their mind to it and work hard.

The challenges started from child-birth for Sidney as he was born 2 months premature and wasn’t expected to survive as a baby.  Thankfully his fighting spirit kicked in early and he grew up in the impoverished Bahamas before moving to Miami to live with his older brother at the age of 15.

He was working as a dishwasher when he saw an ad for actors in the newspaper.  He thought that it seemed like a good idea, so he went to the theatre and the guy on the door asked him if he was an actor.  Sidney replied that he was and was given a script.  Due to his strong Caribbean accent and poor education, he struggled to read the script, so the producer literally picked him up and threw him out of the theatre, telling him to, “Get a real job, like a dishwasher or something.”

As Sidney walked to the bus shelter, he thought to himself, “How did that guy know that I was a dishwasher, do I look like dishwasher material?”

From that moment on, he determined to become a successful actor, if only so that he could go back to that guy and show him what he was really made of.  He dusted himself off, worked on his craft, believed in his abilities and overcame the significant obstacles of education and race to become one of the greatest actors of all time.

Sometimes, we too have a dream or aspiration. 

Sometimes people tell us that we will never get there. 

Sometimes the obstacles to success seem so large that there seems no way around or over them. 

Most of the time, we fall for it and give up.

Sidney Poitier is a genuinely inspirational person because he showed us that with the right attitude, work ethic and consistent focus, we can achieve greatness.

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