Michael Douglas has devoted decades to activism and humanitarian efforts alongside his thriving acting career, making a recent rare public appearance for the same at a UNICEF Youth Event on the International Day of Peace on September 14.
The actor, 78, spoke to the crowd about his passion for the cause of nuclear disarmament and touched on the personal impact of the devastating effects of nuclear war.
He discussed the Three Mile Island nuclear accident of March 1979, and how it particularly impacted him due to coincidentally occurring days after the release of his film The China Syndrome.
"It was an epiphany for me as I came to understand the dangerous potential of nuclear technology," he explained, adding to it the tragic way nuclear war affected his own family.
"The personal impact was later underscored when I learned while doing research on my family history that the town in Belarus where my grandfather came from was completely eliminated as a result of downwind damage from the Chernobyl disaster."
Michael's grandfather was Herschel "Harry" Danielovitch, the father of legendary actor Kirk Douglas. His paternal grandparents emigrated from Chavusy, Mogilev Governorate in the Russian empire, present day Belarus.
The Oscar-winning actor continued: So began my journey to this organization. And for the past 25 years, I have lent my voice as a messenger of peace to help end the spread of weapons of all kinds, in the hope that you and your children will have a world free of violence."
He passionately continued: "We must address the root cause of violence, whether it be climate change, gender inequality, or racial injustice. Peace and sustainable development are inextricably linked, we cannot have one without the other. And you cannot have either without the participation of everyone."
Michael is a member of the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiative and was appointed a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998 for his activism, with his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones often participating alongside him.
A large part of his advocacy for nuclear disarmament came directly due to the success of The China Syndrome with critics and audiences, bringing more awareness to nuclear disaster while being prescient enough to come out days before the Three Mile Island incident and seven years before Chernobyl.
The film, which Michael also produced, co-starred Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon, who were honored with Academy Award nominations for their performances. The film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Art Direction Oscars.
The film revolves around a reporter (played by Jane) and her cameraman (played by Michael) who discover several safety cover ups at a nuclear power plant, with a shift supervisor (played by Jack) intent on resolving the matter while battling the bureaucracy of upper management.
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