During his commencement speech at Dillard University on Saturday, May 9, 2015, two-time Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington offered some great advice to the 2015 graduating seniors and he revealed some shocking statistics about his college life. During the speech, Washington very candidly said he once had a 1.7 grade point average in college. A guard at Fordham University, he earned a B.A. in drama and journalism from Fordham University in 1977.
Here are the nuggets of wisdom he shared with the 247 graduates.
- “Put God first in everything you do. Everything I have is by the grace of God. Understand that. It’s a gift.”
- “Fail big … a dream without goals, is just a dream.”
- Cautioning against materialism he told them “You will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”
- Get on your knees and say “Thank you for grace, thank you for mercy, thank you for understanding, thank you for wisdom, thank you for parents, thank you for love, thank you for kindness, thank you for humility, thank you for peace, thank you for prosperity. Say thank-you in advance for what is already yours. Don’t inspire to make a living, inspire to make a difference.”
According to his bio, Washington is the eldest of three children born to a Pentecostal minister and beauty shop owner, Washington had his career sights set on medicine when he attended Fordham University. During a stint as a summer camp counselor he appeared in one of their theatre productions; Denzel was bitten by the acting bug and returned to Fordham that year seeking the tutelage of Robinson Stone, one of the school’s leading professors.
Upon graduation from Fordham, Washington was accepted into San Francisco’s prestigious American Conservatory Theater. Following an intensive year of study in their theater program, he returned to New York after a brief stop in Los Angeles.
One day while at his mother, Lennis “Lynne” née Lowe’s beauty parlor, a woman prophesied to him he would “travel the world and speak to millions of people.” Those words manifested, “the most important thing that stayed with me since is that I’ve been protected, I’ve been directed, I’ve been corrected. I’ve kept God in my life and it’s kept me humble.”
He added, “I didn’t always stick with Him, but he’s always stuck with me,” Washington said. “Stick with him in everything you do.”
Appearing in more than 42 movies and theatrical productions, Washington has been nominated for 91 awards and has won 39 including two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe awards, five Black reel Awards, 13 NAACP Image Awards, 12 Tony Awards, and 11 Film critic awards, among others. Notable films in which Washington appeared include Crimson Tide (1995), Courage Under Fire (1996), The Hurricane (1999), Bone Collector (1999), Fallen (1998), He Got Game (1998), Remember the Titans (2000), Antwone Fisher (2002), Inside Man (2006), American Gangster (2007), Fences (2010), and Flight (2012). He won Academy Awards® for Glory (Best Supporting Actor, 1989) and Training Day (Best Actor, 2001).
The Mt. Vernon, New York, native was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Dillard University and later delivered the commencement address at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas.