Denzel Washington: Do You Have the Guts to Fail?

Denzel Washington addresses 2011 Penn graduates. (Getty)
Denzel Washington addresses 2011 Penn graduates. (Getty)

Kathy Matheson of the Huffington Post is reporting that Academy Award winner Denzel Washington addressed about 5,000 graduates at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia on Monday. After admitting to a bit of "stage fright," Washington delivered a humorous speech with a sobering truth: Failure is inevitable. Yet instead of having something to fall back on, he said, graduates should "fall forward" — learn from their mistakes and keep going.


Thomas Edison had countless failed experiments before succeeding with the lightbulb, he said. "Do you have the guts to fail?" Washington said. "If you don't fail, you're not even trying." Washington discussed how he switched from premed to prelaw to journalism, failing at all of them, before turning to drama.

Washington described a second failure about 30 years ago at a miserable tryout for a Broadway musical. Then last year, on the same stage as that audition, Washington won a Tony award for his work in Fences.

Washington's son Malcolm is a sophomore at the Ivy League university. Washington received an honorary doctorate at the ceremony. In granting the degree, Penn President Amy Gutmann said that Washington's moving performances have "entertained us, inspired us and often enlightened us." She also praised his offscreen work with charities and social causes, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Denzel Washington as a commencement speaker isn't too shabby. Offering "real talk" to graduating seniors isn't too shabby, either. Helicopter parents who hover around this generation are so afraid to let these kids fail that many of their offspring lack resiliency. Young people need to know that it is OK to fail as long as you try again. Washington is just the man to deliver the message.

Read more at Huffington Post.

In other news: Adam Serwer: Cornel West's Views On President Obama Are Petty.

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