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

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(Actor Denzel Washington chats with Penn officials prior to receiving an honorary degree today at the University of Pennsylvania's commencement.  Photo by Pat Loeb)

(Actor Denzel Washington chats with Penn officials prior to receiving an honorary degree today at the University of Pennsylvania’s commencement. Photo by Pat Loeb)

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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