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Denzel Washington, In University Of Pennsylvania Commencement Speech, Urges Failure

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The University of Pennsylvania held its 255th commencement today, featuring Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington as its speaker.

The graduates comprise some of the best and brightest scholars in the country, and they received one of the most elite educations in the world.  But Washington urged them to fail.

Denzel Washington received an honorary doctorate; he was cited for his Oscar and Tony awards, and it’s hard to imagine him as anything other than a superstar.

But he told graduates that his own college career was not a smooth path.

“I was a 1.8 GPA one semester, and the university very politely suggested that it might be better to take some time off,” he recalled during his commencement speech.  “I was 20 years old and I was at my lowest point.”

Washington, though, says he found acting while on that break from academia and subsequently succeeded by not fearing failure.

“Every graduate here today has the training and talent to succeed,” he said, “but do you have the guts to fail?  If you don’t fail, you’re not even trying.”

Though Washington was well received, he says he accepted Penn’s invitation precisely because it was risky. And because his son is a student.

“And I always like to see how my money is being spent,” he joked.

Reported by Pat Loeb, KYW Newsradio 1060

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  • jj

    Don’t make it sound like he urged students to fail. I was at the commencement, and he was making a point that failure is a part of learning; it helps you find out who you are; it can direct you down a better path. His speech was the best of the day. He was funny, down-to-earth, and spoke from his personal experiences.

  • Charlotte

    wow, get a grip… said “he joked”…..What parent wouldn’t want to know that their money is being spent wisely?? Just because he is a celebrity doesn’t mean he’s different from any other tuition paying parent. Millionare or not no one likes to throw money away.

  • Samuel A. Maffei

    “And I always like to see how my money is being spent” … Wow, Denzel, like you’re the only parent that ever paid for his kids college,

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