Barack Obama: Cicely Tyson was one of the ‘giants upon whose shoulders we stood’

The actress' upbringing, Obama wrote, instilled in her a 'conscious decision to not just say her lines but to speak her truth.'

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Former President Barack Obama shared a heartfelt tribute to the late Cicely Tyson on Instagram yesterday upon news of the acclaimed, award-winning actress’ death. 

Obama shared a photo of himself and his wife, Michelle, sandwiching the diminutive Tyson the day she was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. 

Cicely Tyson arrives at Night Two of the Creative Arts Emmy Awards on Sept. 15, 2019, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

“When Cicely Tyson was born, doctors predicted she wouldn’t make it three months because of a murmur in her heart. What they didn’t know, what they couldn’t know, was that Cicely had a heart unlike any other,” Obama wrote. “The kind that would not only beat for 96 more years but leave a mark on the world that few could match.”

Obama acknowledged that Tyson was successful both on the screen and off. He noted that her Harlem upbringing instilled in her a “conscious decision to not just say her lines but to speak her truth.” 

“At a time when parts for actors who looked like her weren’t easy to come by, she refused to take on roles that reduced Black women to their gender or their race. Sometimes, that meant she would go years without work,” the politician noted. “But she took pride in knowing that whenever her face was on camera, she would be playing a character who was a human being — flawed but resilient; perfect not despite but because of their imperfections.”

He added that he and Mrs. Obama were “honored when Cicely came to the White House to accept the Medal of Freedom, knowing she was one of the many giants upon whose shoulders we stood,” he relayed. “A trailblazer whose legacy couldn’t be measured by her Emmys and Tony and Oscar alone, but by the barriers she broke and the dreams she made possible.”

Read More: 7 reasons Cicely Tyson deserves ALL of our respect

Michelle Obama penned her own loving tribute, sharing a photo of herself and the acting legend, writing: “What struck me every time I spent time with Cicely Tyson was not necessarily her star power — though that was evident enough — it was her humanity.”

“Just by walking into a room, she had this way of elevating everyone around her. She was the personification of beauty, grace, wisdom, and strength,” expressed for he former first lady. “Carrying forward a flame that not only guided her for 96 pathbreaking years but lit the way for so many of us.”

The icon passed away Thursday, just a week after releasing her memoir, Just As I Am. 

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