Dinner with Sir Sidney Poitier: Remarks by Minister Fred Mitchell
Aug 23, 2012 - 6:01:06 PM
Los Angeles, California - The following are
Remarks by Fred Mitchell MP, Bahamas Minister of Foreign Affairs at the Beverly Hilton testimonial
dinner for Ambassador Sidney Poitier held on 21st August 2012:
2007, I received a call from our honouree. I was surprised. I had
after all lost office in May 2007 so having regard to the way life
usually works, I did not think that the relationship would survive the
loss of the office.I always call him Ambassador.He
asked me whether I could come to Los Angeles to see him sometime,
because he wanted to talk to me. I was again a bit taken aback and
surprised. But I agreed right away. I told him that at the first
opportunity I would come and spend the time with him.
did and that was in January 2008. That is the journey which ultimately
led to this day. The time spent together was remarkable: a tour de force
of his history, his views, his life, confidence building.
of us who are in this room are Bahamians and Bahamians of a certain age
and generation. I think therefore it is not necessary for me to say how
large the name Sidney Poitier looms in the imagination and the minds of
the generation gathered here tonight and in the wider Bahamian public.
He is iconic. He is by far our best known son and yet the Bahamian
connection is not as widely known in the world as one may think.
evening’s honouree served as Ambassador for The Bahamas to Japan from
1997 to 2007. He also served as our Ambassador to Unesco from 2002 to
2007. I was the Foreign Minister from 2002 to 2007 and so I got to work
with him on official trips to Japan and to Washington.
The work during those times merely reinforced the iconic nature of the man.
time, I have been introduced to his wife and daughters, one (Pamela) of
whom has an ancestral home where she does a wonderful work. Last year I
had the honour of attending Sydney, his youngest daughter’s wedding
here in California.
we are joined by his older brother Reginald and his niece Stephanie. Up
to last year I used to represent them both in the House of Assembly.
Reginald Poitier is 92 years old and I trust that this is a happy moment
first conceived of this idea late last year when it looked like we
would once again get the chance to govern. I said to the then Leader of
the Opposition, the now Prime Minister Perry Christie that we had to do
something from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to say a thank you to
this iconic man who for love of country gave of his time, reputation and
talents. This small dinner and presentation tonight by our Deputy Prime
Minister Philip Davis, who is also the Member of Parliament for Cat
Island, is the fulfillment of that idea born almost a year ago. I am
proud to be able to witness it. Our Prime Minister and the Cabinet
support this action here tonight and hope to do more to honour Sir
Sidney in the run up to the 40th anniversary of our country next year.Forgive me some nostalgia.
nostalgia of my mother on a Saturday evening sometime in the early
1960s insisting that my brother and I go to the Capitol Theatre in
Market Street to see a Sidney Poitier film.
Prime Minister and Minister of Works and Urban Development the Hon.
Philip Davis (right) speaks with Sir Sidney Poitier (centre), at a Los
Angeles, California, dinner in Sir Sidney’s honour, as Minister of
Foreign Affairs and the Public Service the Hon. Fred Mitchell looks on.
then being taught as an elementary school student to sing Amen, the
theme song from Lilies of the Field, the movie which in 1963 made him
the first African American actor to receive an Oscar and which
catapulted him into the stratosphere of stardom.Fast
forward to 1973 and Independence night and the lights are all down, and
a lone figure is walking around the perimeter of the Clifford Park, the
last man to arrive. As he walked the grounds, the cheers went up as he
passed the crowd. I thought it was a theatrical moment, duly planned.
When I accompanied him as minister to the same site in 2002, he
explained that he was simply lost and had not been told where to go so
he was simply trying to get to where he saw a light and a platform.
have been fortunate in my life to have been adopted by so many people
and I cannot know the reason why but I find myself immeasurably blessed
by it all. I cannot explain why or what for but men like Lynden
Pindling, Albert Miller, Arthur Hanna, Clement Maynard, Arthur Foulkes,
John Dean, Dawson Conliffe and Loftus Roker significantly impacted my
life. These were all people who were not connected with me in any
biological way save for Arthur Hanna but who guided me along the way to
whatever you see today. I said to the Ambassador that I add him to that
group of august men to whom I am grateful and whom I could never repay.
They were all nation builders, shapers of the young minds that will shape our country’s future.
Poitier has taken The Bahamas with him wherever he went. The books
“This Life”, “Measure of A Man” and “Life Beyond Measure” tell the
story. These books chronicle a remarkable story of a life that could not
have been designed by a novelist. It is a compelling story that caused a
judge in an action involving the Disney Company to remark after the
Ambassador’s testimony on the witness stand that his was a remarkable
story. Remarkable indeed.
in this generation have asked what has he done for The Bahamas and my
answer is that he is. That is enough. Even the blind can see.
are proud of this native son, whose roots are strong in Cat Island and
in Nassau. You just read the books and you can see how the early years
are central to who he is today.
am very proud of you sir. I am proud that we are able to say this
simply thank you from a grateful nation. I am pleased that our Deputy
Prime Minister is able to join us and as I take my seat, I say thank you
from the bottom of my heart and from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
for your specific work for us.
We are proud of you. We say thank you.
May you continue to live well and prosper.
I now call upon the Deputy Prime Minister to address us and to present the plaque.
Thank you very much indeed.
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