Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington’s very first piece of advice Saturday for graduates of Dillard University consisted of just three words.
“Number one,” he said slowly and resolutely. “Put. God. First!”
During the rest of his brief commencement address — just over 10 minutes long — Washington urged graduates to “fail big” and take chances. But in regard to material things, he cautioned that “you will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse.”
“Don’t just aspire to make a living,” he concluded, “aspire to make a difference.”
Here’s video of Washington’s speech:
The actor, who received an honorary doctorate from the New Orleans’ school, told a story about his life 40 years earlier. He had a 1.7 grade point average and was sitting in his mother’s beauty parlor when a woman gave him “a prophecy.”
Washington said the woman told him he would “travel the world and speak to millions of people.” But he added that while her words came true, “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.”
“I didn’t always stick with him, but he’s always stuck with me,” Washington said. “Stick with him in everything you do.”
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