In the course of the 2016 presidential campaign, veteran actor Kirk Douglas wrote several open letters that were published by the Huffington Post.
While Douglas did not directly address any candidates, people quickly determined who they were directed at or rather who most needed to get the message.
After Douglas' death at age 103, people are reflecting on the letters.
The first—originally published in July of 2015 and updated a year later—addressed issues of racism and bigotry created by the legacy of slavery in the United States.
Douglas titled the piece:
"An Open Letter to All Those Who Would Be President"
"If you want my vote in November of 2016, I am asking you to do something right now.
"America has never formally acknowledged and apologized for the unspeakable evil of slavery. So I am asking Republicans and Democrats alike to apologize to the American people. Our continued refusal to apologize for slavery still shames and divides our nation. It is past the time to heal."
"I have lived a long time—98 years—and I have seen many incredible things."
"I remember the days when the Ku Klux Klan was very powerful. They burned crosses on lawns."
"I remember when there were segregated drinking fountains and bathrooms."
"I've even lived long enough to see a black man elected President—twice. Incredibly, he now lives in a house that was built by slaves."
"I hope to live long enough to see one of the candidates promise an apology for slavery. We cannot erase our history, but we can pledge that hatred will be banished from our great land."
"I look forward to your reply."
In his second letter in HuffPo titled "The Road Ahead," Douglas addressed remarks made by candidate Donald Trump during a campaign MAGA rally in Arizona. The second open letter was published in September 2016.
Douglas introduced the piece stating:
"I have always been deeply proud to be an American. In the time I have left, I pray that will never change."
"I am in my 100th year. When I was born in 1916 in Amsterdam, New York, Woodrow Wilson was our president."
"My parents, who could not speak or write English, were emigrants from Russia. They were part of a wave of more than two million Jews that fled the Czar's murderous pogroms at the beginning of the 20th Century. They sought a better life for their family in a magical country where, they believed, the streets were literally paved with gold."
"What they did not realize until after they arrived was that those beautiful words carved into the Statute of Liberty in New York Harbor: 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,' did not apply equally to all new Americans. Russians, Poles, Italians, Irish and, particularly Catholics and Jews, felt the stigma of being treated as aliens, as foreigners who would never become 'real Americans'."
"They say there is nothing new under the sun. Since I was born, our planet has traveled around it one hundred times. With each orbit, I've watched our country and our world evolve in ways that would have been unimaginable to my parents―and continue to amaze me with each passing year."
"In my lifetime, American women won the right to vote, and one is finally the candidate of a major political party. An Irish-American Catholic became president. Perhaps, most incredibly, an African-American is our President today."
"The longer I've lived, the less I've been surprised by the inevitability of change, and how I've rejoiced that so many of the changes I've seen have been good."
"Yet, I've also lived through the horrors of a Great Depression and two World Wars, the second of which was started by a man who promised that he would restore his country it to its former greatness."
"I was 16 when that man came to power in 1933. For almost a decade before his rise he was laughed at―not taken seriously. He was seen as a buffoon who couldn't possibly deceive an educated, civilized population with his nationalistic, hateful rhetoric."
"The 'experts' dismissed him as a joke. They were wrong."
Douglas then spoke of words that were reminiscent of those used in Germany to excite White nationalism and anti-semitism.
"A few weeks ago we heard words spoken in Arizona that my wife, Anne, who grew up in Germany, said chilled her to the bone. They could also have been spoken in 1933:"
He then quote Donald Trump.
Trump said in his MAGA rally:
"We also have to be honest about the fact that not everyone who seeks to join our country will be able to successfully assimilate. It is our right as a sovereign nation to choose immigrants that we think are the likeliest to thrive and flourish here…[including] new screening tests for all applicants that include an ideological certification to make sure that those we are admitting to our country share our values…"
Douglas rebuked Trump's rhetoric.
"These are not the American values that we fought in World War II to protect."
"Until now, I believed I had finally seen everything under the sun. But this was the kind of fear-mongering I have never before witnessed from a major U.S. presidential candidate in my lifetime."
"I have lived a long, good life. I will not be here to see the consequences if this evil takes root in our country. But your children and mine will be. And their children. And their children's children."
"All of us still yearn to remain free. It is what we stand for as a country. I have always been deeply proud to be an American. In the time I have left, I pray that will never change. In our democracy, the decision to remain free is ours to make."
Indeed, it is our decision to make. As of Monday, February 10, the 2020 presidential election is 266 days away.
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