At the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, actor Denzel Washington gave a moving speech to graduates. “I’ll be honest with you: I’m a little nervous. I am not used to speaking at a graduation of this magnitude, it’s a little overwhelming. This is out of my comfort zone. Dress me up in army fatigues. Or throw me on top of a moving train, someone said unstoppable or ask me to play Malcolm X, Rubin Hurricane Carter, Alonzo from Training Day: I can do all that,” he said.
After thinking aloud about what he could speak, he finally arrived at it. “I’ve found that nothing in life is worthwhile unless you take risks. Nothing. Nelson Mandela said: “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that’s less than the one you’re capable of living.” I’m sure in your experiences in school… in applying to college… in picking your major… in deciding what you want to do with life, people have told you to make sure you have something to “fall back on.” Make sure you got something to fall back on, honey. But I never understood that concept, having something to fall back on.”
“If I’m going to fall, I don’t want to fall back on anything, except my faith. I want to fall forward. At least I figure that way I’ll see what I’m about to hit,” he added to applause. “Fall forward. Here’s what I mean: Reggie Jackson struck out twenty-six-hundred times in his career — the most in the history of baseball. But you don’t hear about the strikeouts. People remember the home runs. Fall forward.”
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