NEW ORLEANS, La. (Christian Examiner) -- Crediting God with all he has accomplished, two-time Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington encouraged the graduates of the private Dillard University to "put God first" in all things during his 12-minute commencement speech at the historically black school in early May.
Washington recalled his days as a young actor who was just starting to "make it. Crediting the sources of his success, the 60-year-old actor shared a conversation he once had with his mother.
"I said, 'Ma did you think this was going to happen that I'd be so big and I'd be able to take care of everybody and I could do this and I could do that and I ...'" Washington started, noting her interruption of his self-focused monologue.
"Boy stop it right there, stop it right there, stop it right there," Washington mimicked his mom's words to an eruption of applause. "If you only knew how many people been praying for you!"
Continuing the narrative of the power of prayer in his life, the pentecostal Christian believer noted his mother's account of "how many prayer groups she put together, how many prayer talks she gave, how many times she splashed me with holy water to save my sorry behind."
Congratulating the graduates on their degrees and their families for supporting them along the way, Washington had four major points of advice for the group, which emphasized God as a priority.
"Number one: Put God first. Put God first in everything you do. Everything you think you see in me. Everything I've accomplished, everything thing you think I have – and I have a few things," Washington laughed.
"Everything that I have is by the grace of God. Understand that. It's a gift," he said.
The actor advised the graduates to set goals for their dreams and embody gratitude but "don't be afraid to fail big."
As for money, the wealthy actor said, "It's not how much you have, it's what you do with it."
"While you're on your knees in the morning, say thank you. Say thank you in advance for what is already yours. True desire in the heart for anything good is God's proof to you sent beforehand that it's already yours. ... When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up. Each one, teach one. Don't just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference," the actor admonished.