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‘Put God first!’: Denzel Washington’s inspiring commencement address puts Michelle O’s to shame

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Dillard University‘s 218 members of the Class of 2015 received a special treat in addition to their diplomas — Academy and Tony Award-winning actor Denzel Washington to deliver the keynote commencement address.

And in contrast to the whiney, racial and excuse-driven address delivered by first lady Michelle Obama at another historically black university, Washington’s was filled of hope, humor, inspiration and love of his creator.

“No. 1,” he resolutely told the graduates of the New Orleans university, “Put. God. First!”

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Denzel Washington speaks after receiving an honorary degree at the Dillard Commencement featuring Denzel Washington at Dillard University. Saturday, May 9, 2015. (NOLA.com Photo)

Washington told the class that God has kept him centered throughout his life,

“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,” he said.

“I didn’t always stick with him, but he’s always stuck with me. Stick with him in everything you do.”

Toward the end of his brief address, he gave some sage advice.

“I pray that you put your slippers way under your bed tonight, so that when you wake up in the morning you have to get on your knees to reach them,” Washington said.

“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.

“Don’t just aspire to make a living,” he concluded, “aspire to make a difference.”

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Denzel Washington receives an honorary degree at the Dillard Commencement featuring Denzel Washington at Dillard University. Saturday, May 9, 2015. (NOLA.com Photo)

On Saturday — the same day as Washington’s address — the first lady delivered her own commencement speech at Tuskegee University.

But instead of inspiration-driven, hers was racially motivated.

“The road ahead is not going to be easy. It never is, especially for folks like you and me,” she said. “Because while we’ve come so far, the truth is those age-old problems are stubborn, and they haven’t fully gone away.”

Her resentment was as palpable as Washington’s gratitude was evident. One graduating class got rewarded for its time, anyway.

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