Jim Denison on the Death of Kirk Douglas and Three Steps to National Healing

Kirk Douglas died Wednesday at the age of 103. He was born Issur Danielovitch on December 9, 1916, in Amsterdam, New York. He changed his name to Kirk Douglas before entering the US Navy during World War II.

He was the only son of seven children born to illiterate Russian immigrants. In his autobiography, he reported that his father was a “ragman,” trading in old rags, pieces of metal, and other junk. As a child, Douglas sold snacks to mill workers and had more than forty jobs in his youth. As a young adult, he once spent the night in jail because he had no place to sleep.

He recited the poem “The Red Robin of Spring” in kindergarten and received applause, an experience that caused him to aspire to become an actor. After graduating from college and studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, he joined the Navy in 1941 and was medically discharged three years later for war injuries.

He then returned to New York City, where he found work in radio, theater, and commercials. He became one of America’s biggest box-office stars in the 1950s and ’60s, eventually appearing in more than ninety movies. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981, an honorary Academy Award in 1996, and the National Medal of Arts in 2002.

Douglas and his wife of sixty-five years donated multiplied millions of dollars to various schools and up to $55 million to an Alzheimer’s treatment facility in California. After a near-fatal helicopter crash in 1991 that took the lives of two other men, he returned to the Judaism of his roots and even celebrated a second Bar-Mitzvah in 1999 at the age of eighty-three.


Media attention has been focused on Douglas, the growing coronavirus epidemic, and the continued controversy surrounding the Iowa caucuses. Meanwhile, a less-reported event was held yesterday in Washington, DC, that deserves our attention today.

President Trump spoke Thursday at the National Prayer Breakfast, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who focused on those facing religious persecution around the world.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower began the event in 1953 at the urging of evangelist Billy Graham. The president did so from the conviction, as he told the gathering that “all free government is firmly founded in a deeply felt religious faith.” Every president since has addressed this gathering of 3,500 elected officials, diplomats, national and international religious and political leaders.

I have attended the breakfast several times over the years but watched yesterday’s gathering online. It was a bit surreal to see President Trump and Speaker Pelosi together for the first time since the State of the Union address, after which she ripped up the manuscript of the president’s speech at its conclusion.

If ever we needed an event to bring together disparate political figures, it’s today.

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Source: Christian Headlines