In this season of graduation ceremonies, I found Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington's speech last Saturday to the graduates of Dillard University in New Orleans very compelling. His very first words were very direct and to the point.
"Number one," he said slowly and resolutely. "Put. God. First! Put God first in everything you do. Everything I have is by the grace of God. Understand that. It's a gift."
Denzel then told a story about his life 40 years earlier. He had a 1.7 grade point average and was sitting in his mother's beauty parlor when a woman gave him "a prophecy." Washington said the woman told him he would "travel the world and speak to millions of people." But he added that while her words came true, "the most important thing that stayed with me since is that I've been protected, I've been directed, I've been corrected. I've kept God in my life and it's kept me humble."
"I didn't always stick with him, but he's always stuck with me," Washington said. "Stick with him in everything you do." Washington then urged graduates to "fail big" and take chances. But in regard to material things, he cautioned that "you will never see a U-Haul behind a hearse."
"I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed tonight," the actor noted toward the end of his time behind the podium, "so that when you wake up in the morning you have to get on your knees to reach them. 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."
"True desire in the heart for anything good is God's proof to you, sent beforehand, to indicate that it's yours already," Washington said.
Good words for our graduates, Mr. Washington. Good words for all of us.
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Prayer for Today
O God, today we pray for our graduates, from pre-school all the way up to graduate school, and especially our high school graduates. Give them your peace and a confidence that as they go, they go in your hands. Enable them to love and to serve wherever they are and whatever they do. Amen.