Douglas urges action in birthday note

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Editor's note: Legendary movie star and philanthropist Kirk Douglas, who was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1996 in recognition of his half-century as "a creative and moral force in the motion picture community," issued this op-ed piece to mark his 90th birthday on Dec. 9.

My name is Kirk Douglas. You may know me. If you don't, Google me. I was a movie star and I'm Michael Douglas's dad, Catherine Zeta-Jones' father-in-law, and the grandparents of their two children. Today I celebrate my 90th birthday.

I have a message to convey to America's young people. A 90th birthday is special. In my case, this birthday is not only special but miraculous. I survived World War II, a helicopter crash, a stroke and two new knees.

It's a tradition that when a "birthday boy" stands over his cake he makes a silent wish for his life and then blows out the candles. I have followed that tradition for 89 years, but on my 90th birthday I have decided to rebel. Instead of making a silent wish for myself, I want to make a LOUD wish for THE WORLD.

Let's face it: THE WORLD IS IN A MESS and you are inheriting it. Generation Y, you are on the cusp. You are the group facing many problems: abject poverty, global warming, genocide, AIDS and suicide bombers, to name a few. These problems exist, and the world is silent. We have done very little to solve these problems. Now, we leave it to you. You have to fix it because the situation is intolerable.

You need to rebel, to speak up, write, vote, and care about people and the world you live in. We live in the best country in the world. I know. My parents were Russian immigrants. America is a country where EVERYONE, regardless of race, creed or age has a chance. I had that chance. You are the generation that is most impacted and the generation that can make a difference.

I love this country because I came from a life of poverty. I was able to work my way through college and go into acting, the field that I love. There is no guarantee in this country that you will be successful. But you always have a chance. Nothing should interfere with it. You have to make sure that nothing stands in the way.

When I blow out my candles -- 90! ... it will take a long time ... but I'll be thinking of you.
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