Actor Denzel Washington Urges Dillard University Graduates: ‘Put God First’

Washington Credit Paul RudmanNEW ORLEANS, La. — Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington urged graduates at New Orleans’ Dillard University to “put God first,” stating that in his own life, he knows that all he has achieved is by the grace of God.

Washington, 60, known for his roles in films such as “Glory,” “The Preacher’s Wife,” “Remember the Titans” and “Training Day,” presented a brief 11-minute commencement speech to students that often focused on faith.

He began by sharing one of his own life lessons: that he cannot solely take the credit for his place in life. Washington recalled making a comment to his mother years ago about how big he had become, putting emphasis on the “I.”

“She said, ‘Boy, stop it right there,'” he recalled. “If you only knew how many people have been praying for you.”

Washington also shared during the speech that has come a long way as he was flunking college with a 1.7 GPO. He remembered sitting in his mother’s beauty parlor one day during his college days and a woman that was getting her hair done began to focus on him and prophesy that he would “travel the world and speak to millions of people.”

“I’ve been protected. I’ve been directed. I’ve been corrected. I’ve kept God in my life, and He’s kept me humble,” he told graduates. “I didn’t always stick with [God], but He stuck with me. So stick with Him in everything you do.”

Washington urged those gathered to make God the center of their life.

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“Put God first,” he declared emphatically, evoking applause. “Everything you think you see in me, everything that I’ve accomplished, everything that you think I have—and I have a few things—everything I have is by the grace of God. Understand that. It’s a gift.”

But the actor also exhorted graduates to remember that material goods aren’t everything.

“You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse,” he stated. “I don’t care how much money you make. You can’t take it with you.”

“I pray that you put your slippers way under the bed tonight, so that when you get up in the morning, and you have to get on your knees to reach them,” Washington said. “And while you’re down there, say thank you. 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’s already yours.”

He encouraged graduates that the desire of their heart—if it is for good—is given to them by God to help others.

“True desire in the heart for anything good is God’s proof to you to sent before hand to indicate that it’s yours already,” Washington stated. “When you get it, reach back [and] pull someone else up. Each one, teach one. Don’t just aspire to make a living. Aspire to make a difference.”

Washington, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, told GQ Magazine in 2012 that he reads the Bible each day. He also stated in 1999 that he has contemplated at times whether he is called to preach.

“A part of me still says, ‘Maybe, Denzel, you’re supposed to preach. Maybe you’re still compromising,’” he said. “I’ve had an opportunity to play great men and, through their words, to preach. I take what talent I’ve been given seriously, and I want to use it for good.”

Photo: Paul Rudman

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  • LeftCoast

    It must be tough being one of a few Hollywood actors that believe in God. D, blessings for you and your family.

  • Gloria Olivieri Perri

    God bless you Denzel!! Watch all your movies. You definitely have a gift from God, and it looks as if you are following the path He led you to…not only your talent but using that talent to shepherd God’s sheep. PTL!!

  • waboud

    Mister Washington and I mean this with all due respect. Your address was fantastic. Mr. and Mrs. Washington and your grandparents should be very proud of you. What a great message for your Mother on Mother’s day weekend. From an old French Canadian catholic Mainiac. God Bless Denzel

  • UmustBKiddinMe

    Sounds like a good address. I particularly liked: “You’ll never see a U-Haul behind a hearse,” – so very true.

  • LadyFreeBird<God'sNotDead

    He is a good man. And God will bless him.

  • I was never aware of his beliefs but I always enjoyed his films. I will even more so now. I think Christians and for that matter Conservatives are getting some traction in the entertainment industry. (Vince Vaughn, Gary Sinise, Bono, Clint Eastwood, Charleton Heston (of course) Patricia Heaton, Kelsy Grammer and many more). Every voice helps.

  • Pashan Knight

    Denzel, I’m sure you know a lot of influential people, so I pray that God gives you favor with them for the benefit of the kingdom. Peace and blessings!

  • Shaunagh

    Love this guy! God bless you Denzel! Stay humble and preach it brother!

  • Karla Blackman Cartwright

    I can’t watch your movies because of the language, violence and sexual content that is in them. Being a christian, I can not let that stuff get in my eye gates and ear gates. I am not putting any one down for it, before I came to God I use to watch your movies. You are a great actor, I just can’t enjoy it myself.

  • Jeff Zahorsky

    But say the name Jesus … and watch this be a different artuvle on a number of levels (e.g. reactions, his heart and lips, etc.) Say “God … ” eh, I can see this in new age books. Mercy, grace … how? Who?

  • FoJC_Forever

    Selfishness is a carnal attribute. Those who do something good for others because it brings good feelings to self are not doing good in the sight of God.

    Why do people always get mystified and misty eyed by famous people who talk about God? The devils believe in God, and tremble.


      IN THE CULTURE WE LIVE IN– anyone who pushes you nearer to God deserves some commending in mind– although a consistency in character would attribute more credit- I admire anyone who has a heart that longs after God– seeking and worshipping Him is a great place to start, no man is flawless. I appreciate Denzel’s admiration of God– Denzel had the courage to speak to a crowd of younger adults about real truth– I admire that! What a blessing to have a platform with some influence and use it to encourage people to put Our God first in thier lives! Thank you Denzel, because God is good- and His ways are true! I see the concern people have within their comments here– but no man is perfect–for they are only “men”… and Denzel is not a “pastor” — but a “man” who is giving credit and glory to God– he didn’t claim divinity. Thank you Denzel for your courage to honor our Creator!

      • Coach

        What God?


          You don’t believe in God– or What God…as in “creating a God to suit yourself”….? Inferring that this “famous” person is pointing these people to a god- rather than the one and only God….?

          • KRISTEN SMITH

            Your capitalization would lead me to believe it is the latter not the former. If one truly seeks they will find the one and only God– I would personally never set a “famous” person as an example to my children of a “believer”– however–in our “dead” culture– I am grateful that a person would at the very least tell people to “put God first” –is this not the very beginning of a beautiful relationship with our creator (putting Him first).

          • Coach

            The point is he did the same thing rappers do (or did). Make entertainment that dishonors God, then thank God for helping them make the entertainment. As for anyone who says to put God first, I wouldn’t jump on that bandwagon just because the popular thing in our culture is to make no mention of God. He didn’t mention Christ in any way. Discernment has to be exercised in the fact that someone like Joel Osteen or TD Jakes, would say the same thing “put God first and you’ll be successful”. Putting God first means dying to self, not becoming financially prosperous. Denzel gave a positive self-help message to a bunch of graduates and received tons of praise as though he’s some sort of anchor for the faith.
            Could I be wrong on my assessment?Possibly?, but we have the respect the Bible as God’s authoritative Word, not simply clap for everyone who mentions God, cheapening God’s grace and disregarding the words of our only Lord and master Jesus Christ.

          • Larry Davis

            You are spot on. Many celebrities seem to be Christian’s but their actions betray that confession. And note that Denzel said in a 60 minutes interview that he prayed to the dead spirits of slaves which aided him to play that role in Glory. Remember that, everyone. Be discerning. Learn how to properly divide the Word of Truth and apply Scripture to all aspects of your life. “Many will say “Lord, Lord…”

  • Ltpar

    If this is actually what Denzel Washington practices and not just preaches, we need more men like him talking to both college graduates and high school students. Unfortunately, all to many have never been exposed to God as he has been banned from their lives. Keep up the good work Denzel.

  • Jim Deferio

    Kind of difficult to take Washington seriously when he has been in so many absolutely filthy raunchy and obscene movies. How do I know? I have read detailed reviews of these movies. Has there been a public repentance on his part and apology for being hypocritical? If so, I haven’t heard about it.
    He’s a public figure so he must apologize PUBLICLY.

    • OldArkie

      That’s true. Many of his movies is filled with many bad words. Why would a real Christians support such a things? It seems all he is receiving is praises. Do American even know what a true Christian is like?

  • Chrissy Vee

    😀 ♥♥♥!

  • Coach

    It is sad that this article would be glamorized on this site. He stood in front of students and talked the same prosperity, feel good nonsense that Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, and every other false teacher talks, but because he’s Denzel Washington, people are jumping for joy. Representation of so-called Christianity in America for sure.

    • shellyTheGreat

      um, i guess he was supposed to make them feel…bad?