Page last updated at 00:52 GMT, Saturday, 18 October 2008 01:52 UK

Kirk Douglas urges young to vote

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

Kirk Douglas
The actor has been involved with humanitarian causes since the 1960s

Screen legend Kirk Douglas has entered the US election fray by embracing the power of the internet to encourage young Americans to vote.

The veteran actor, best known for classic films such as Spartacus and Paths of Glory, has been blogging on his MySpace page, in an attempt to engage a new generation of voters.

"I don't tell them who I'm voting for because that's unfair, but I encourage them to vote. This is a fantastic election, where you have a woman running for vice-president and a black man running for president."

Asked for his opinion of Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, Douglas, 91, shrugs his shoulders.

The world is in a mess, and our children will inherit that mess, and we have to do everything we can to help them
Kirk Douglas

"She's charming, she has a good personality, she has good legs, she's beautiful, she speaks well. But when I think if she has to be president of our country, I have my doubts."

Douglas has a twinkle in his eye, but he is a serious man on a mission.

"Let's face it, the world is in a mess, and our children will inherit that mess, and we have to do everything we can to help them."

Together with his wife, Anne, Douglas is involved in numerous projects to benefit the young.

Kirk Douglas uses his blog to reach younger people

"I have a high school, the Kirk Douglas high school. It's a high school for troubled students who have been kicked out of other high schools, and I love it. I go off and I give speeches at the school."

The couple also raise money to improve children's' playgrounds in Los Angeles.

In recent years, Douglas, who is a prolific author, has been reflecting on his own formative years.

In his latest book, Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving and Learning, he attempts to put his own life in perspective.


"I realise when I was young I was so egotistical, so wrapped in myself, and in my career. As I got older, I got a bit of a balance, I got to think of other people."

He says life-changing events, such as suffering a stoke in 1996, also helped to put things in perspective.

What does an actor do who can't talk? He waits for silent pictures to come back!
Kirk Douglas

"When I had my stroke…I was so depressed, but I learned that the best way to handle depression - which is caused by too much thinking of yourself - is to think of other people, try to help others. That lesson is the best one, and I live by that rule and I have expounded it in my books and to other people."

Douglas's stroke severely impaired his ability to speak, although it has vastly improved with time. The actor deals with the impairment through humour.

"When I first had my stroke I couldn't talk at all. So what does an actor do who can't talk? He waits for silent pictures to come back! That's a corny joke," he smiles.

Indeed, Douglas loves to talk.

"When you think of it, my whole life has been talking, he says.

"You play your part and you talk. Am I talking too much?"


Douglas's passions today include the pursuit of a formal apology by the US government for slavery.

"On MySpace I've been collecting names of people who agree with me," he explains.

Kirk Douglas
Kirk Douglas was Oscar nominated three times in the 1950s

"Because, you know, America is such a big powerful country, it should show that it's capable of humility and that apology would accomplish that."

"We have had Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Barack Obama - I mean look at the contributions of black people.

"The world would disappear without black people, the world of music, aside from all the politicians. They have earned their way, they don't ask for an apology, but we should give it."

While Douglas appears to have mastered the online world, he rebuffs some other forms of technology.

"I don't have a cell phone," he says.

"I don't want to call anybody, and if anybody calls me I have a secretary."

He adds: "I never wear a watch because the passage of time depresses me."

But a conversation with Kirk Douglas is far from depressing.

"You always have to have hope," he says.

"And when I see the young kids, they have so much vitality. I worry about the grown ups. If they do their part, the children will do their part, and we'll have a better world."

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