- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

Legendary actor Kirk Douglas has feigned affection toward many a leading lady in his long film career, but there was nothing fake about the heartfelt kiss he planted on Anne Douglas, his wife of five decades, after she received a prestigious Jefferson Award (the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen) Wednesday morning at the Kennedy Center.

“She’s a great person with such compassion,” the star of “Spartacus,” “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and “Lust for Life” said with visible emotion. “I’m very proud of her.”

Mrs. Douglas, who says she believes good deeds are contagious, has spent $1 million of her own money and helped raise even more to repair and renovate deteriorated school grounds in Los Angeles.

“Showing that we care for others will teach [the youngsters] to care for others as well,” Mrs. Douglas said in her acceptance speech. “Hopefully if the children like their playground, they will do the same for their children.”

After reading a 1997 article in the Los Angeles Times about the dismal conditions of schoolyards in the city schools, Mrs. Douglas decided to help. Since then, she has vowed to continue her efforts until all 450 public school playgrounds in Los Angeles have been repaired.

“She was determined she was going to spend the rest of her life bringing joy to children,” said Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti, a longtime friend.

The Jefferson Awards were established in 1972 to honor public service in the same way that the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes pay homage to other major areas of endeavor. (The founders were Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Sen. Robert Taft Jr. and Sam Beard, president of the American Institute for Public Service, which administers the award.)

Also honored at Wednesday’s awards were National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice (who was unable to be present to accept the H. John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen), AIDS research and awareness advocate Mathilde Krim, one of the originators of the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and lawyer Matthew Meyer, who was recognized for helping create jobs and small business opportunities for poor residents of Nairobi, Kenya.

In addition, more than 80 ordinary people doing extraordinary things across the nation were saluted for their public spiritedness at a dinner at Union Station on Tuesday night.

There is no monetary award, but the recipients and their families receive complimentary transportation and accommodations for a three-day stay in the capital.

The youngest of the do-gooders, Anthony Leanna, 12, has collected and shipped more than 8,000 hats to cancer patients who have lost their hair after medical treatments.

“I just wanted to put a smile on their faces while they’re going through a tough time,” the Green Bay, Wis., native said. “It puts a smile on my face too.”

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