American's favorite, Denzel Washington, preaches to young actors

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
Denzel Washington speaks to high school students at the 2014 August Wilson Monologue Competition at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway in New York City. | YouTube/SCREEN CAPTURE

NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) -- Denzel Washington, the Oscar-winning actor named America's Favorite Movie Star last month, took time to tell young actors last summer that whatever "itch" they have is proof of God working in their lives.

Washington, moved up from No. 7 in last year's Harris (Nielson) Poll – making it the fifth time he's been America's favorite, previously being recognized in a 3-year spot from 2006-2008. He gained the honor again in 2012 and landed in the No. 2 spot in 2013.

In a four-minute motivational speech on a darkened stage with perhaps two dozen young actors, Washington told the actors, "That itch you have to be whatever it is you want to be – behind the camera, in front of the stage, behind the stage – that itch, that desire for good is God's proof to you, set beforehand, to indicate it is yours. You already have it; claim it.

"Understand this also," the actor continued, "dreams without goals remain dreams, just dreams, and ultimately fuel disappointment. ... Goals on the road to achievement cannot be achieved without discipline and consistency."

Washington, who more than two dozen years ago was quoted saying perhaps he was meant "to preach," continued to inspire the students with spiritual advice based on his commitment to his faith.

"I pray you all put your shoes way under the bed at night, so you've got to get on your knees in the morning to find them," Washington said to the enthusiastic applause of his listeners. "And while you're down there, thank God for grace and mercy and understanding.

"We all fall short of the glory," Washington continued. "We all got plenty. If you just start thinking of all the things you've got to say 'Thank you' for, that's a day; that's easily a day" spent on your knees in prayer.

"We all have that unique gift to go out and touch people, to affect people," said the popular actor."Understand that gift. Protect that gift. Appreciate that gift. Utilize that gift. Don't abuse that gift. Treasure it. You have it; you already have it."

I pray you all put your shoes way under the bed at night, so you've got to get on your knees in the morning to find them. And while you're down there, thank God for grace and mercy and understanding.

Washington's memorable movies are The Equalizer, Flight, The Book of Eli, Man on Fire, Remember the Titans and several other blockbusters including Training Day for which he earned an Oscar as Best Actor. He is also a screenwriter, producer, and director who has a net worth of $190 million dollars who earns $40-$60 million annually.

Born in 1954 to a beauty salon owner mother and a Pentecostal pastor father, Washington and his wife Pauletta have four grown children.

He referred to his wealth as he spoke to the young actors perhaps to remind them of what they could achieve.

"Finally, I'll say this," Washington said. "You'll never see a U-Haul [vehicle] behind a hearse. ... "I've been blessed to make hundreds of millions of dollars in my life. I can't take it with me and neither can you, so it's not how much you have. It's what you do with what you have.

"We all have different gifts," continued Washington. "Some, money. Some, love; some patience; some the ability to touch people. We all have [something]. Use it. Share it. That's what counts. Not what you're driving, not what you're flying in, not the kind of house you bought your mama -- but buy your mama a house."

His listeners erupted in laughter.

"We are all in this eternity together," Washington said. "I am just one of y'all. I'm just another actor up here on stage. We all started here."

Washington's acting career dates to 1974. One of his early roles was as a grape in Fruit of the Loom commercials. A major career break came when he starred as Dr. Phillip Chandler in NBC's television hospital drama St. Elsewhere, which ran from 1982 to 1988.

Washington has said he reads his Bible daily.