Denzel Washington’s Famous Fall Forward Speech (Full Transcript) – The Singju Post (2022)

Denzel Washington’s Famous Fall Forward Speech (Full Transcript) – The Singju Post (1)

Here is the full transcript (Edited version) of Actor Denzel Washington’s Famous “Fall Forward” Speech at University of Pennsylvania. The event occurred on Monday, May 16, 2011.

Listen to the MP3 audio of this speech: Denzel Washington’s Famous Fall Forward Speech Full MP3

TRANSCRIPT:

President Gutmann: Please join me in welcoming Denzel Washington.

Denzel Washington – Academy Award-winning and Tony Award-winning actor and director.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

I am obviously the most unorganized; everybody else has nice boxes when they’re script up and I just kind of got all my stuff here and put inside of a magazine, so. So in fact, I don’t even have it in the right order, wait a minute. Let me get it in the right order here….

So if it starts like flying around the stage, just run around and grab it for me, bring it back up here for me. I’ll keep going as I can.

President Gutmann; Provost Price; Board Chair Cohen; fellow honorees; beautiful honorees and today’s graduates.

I’m honored and grateful for the invitation today. It’s always been great to be on the Penn campus. I’ve been here before a lot of times for basketball games. My son played at the Palestra, played on the basketball team. Coach didn’t give him enough playing time, but we’ll talk about that later.

No, I’m really pleased with the progress that Coach Allen has made and no, I do. I am, I really am. And I hope him the best success in the future.

I’d always get a warm welcome when I come to Pennsylvania, when I come to Philadelphia — except on the few occasions when I’d wear my Yankees cap.

It’s like taking your life in your hands around it when you wear Yankee cap, I am telling you. I met a couple of guys and they were like: “Hey, we love you Denzel. But you walking around with that hat on…we don’t care who you are.”

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So you’ll be happy to see that I’m not wearing my Yankees cap today.

But I am wearing my Yankees socks, my Yankees t-shirt, and my Yankees jock shirts, my Yankee underwear. Not my Yankee cap.

Still, 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.

But a commencement speech? It’s a very serious affair and it’s a different ballgame. There are literally thousands and thousands of people here.

And for those who say— well you’re a movie star, millions of people watch you speak all the time…… Yes, that’s technically true. But I’m not actually there in the theater — watching them watching me. I think that makes sense.

I mean I’m not there when they cough… or fidget… or pull out their iPhone and text their boyfriend or scratch their behinds.

But from up here: I can see every single one of you. And that makes me uncomfortable.

So please, don’t pull out your iPhones and don’t text your boyfriend until after I’m done. Please.

But if you need to scratch your behinds, go right ahead. I’ll understand.

I was thinking about the speech, which I should say. I figured the best way to keep your attention would be to talk about something really, juicy Hollywood stuff. I thought I could start with me and Russell Crowe getting into some arguments on the set of American Gangster…but no. You’re a group of high-minded intellectuals. You’re not interested in that.

I thought about “private” moment I had backstage with Angelina Jolie in her dressing room at the Oscars?… I said no, I don’t think so. This is an Ivy League school. Angelina Jolie half-naked in her dressing room…? Who wants to hear about that?

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No one, no one, this is Penn. That stuff wouldn’t go over well here. Maybe at Drexel—but not over here.

I’m in trouble now.

I was back to square one feeling the pressure. So now you’re probably thinking — if it was going to be this difficult, why’d I even accept today’s invitation in the first place?

Well, you know my son goes here. That’s number one. That’s a good reason. And I always like to check to see how my money’s being spent. And I’m sure there’s some parents out there who can relate to what I’m talking about!

And there were other good reasons for me to show up. Sure, I got an Academy Award… but I never had something called “Magic Meatballs” after waiting in line for half an hour at a food truck.

Yes, I’ve talked face-to-face with President Obama… but I never talked face to face with a guy named “Kweeder” who sings bad songs at Smokes on a Tuesday night.

Yes, I’ve played a detective battling demons… but I’ve never been to a school in my life where the squirrel population has gone bananas. I mean they break into the dorm rooms and they’re walking around campus. I think I saw some carrying books on the way to class.

So I had to be here. I had to come… even though I was afraid I might make a fool of myself. In fact, if you really want to know the truth: I had to come exactly because I might make a fool of myself.

What am I talking about?

Well, here it is: 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.

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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.

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.

Thomas Edison conducted 1,000 failed experiments. Did you know that? I didn’t either, because 1,001 was the light bulb.

Fall forward.

Every failed experiment is one step closer to success. You’ve got to take risks. And I’m sure you’ve probably heard that before.

But I want to talk about why it’s so important.

I’ve got three reasons and then you can pick up your iPhones.

First… you will fail at some point in your life. Accept it. You will lose. You will embarrass yourself. You will suck at something. There is no doubt about it. That’s probably not a traditional message for a graduation ceremony.

But, hey, I’m telling you—embrace it. Because it’s inevitable.

And I should know: In the acting business, you fail all the time. Early in my career, I auditioned for a part in a Broadway musical. A perfect role for me, I thought—except for the fact that I can’t sing.

FAQs

What was the overall message of Denzel Washington's speech? ›

Washington shared four main key points during his speech which was to put God first, fail big, achieve, and be disciplined. With the help of pathos and rhetorical devices, He used his past experiences to express his ideas through his speech.

What does Denzel Washington mean by falling forward? ›

What does it mean to fall forward? (It means taking chances and going all in for something good. It means that even when we fail in striving for a dream we learn from the fall, and then when we get up again we are even stronger than before. It means not to be afraid of failure.)

What was the purpose of fall forward speech? ›

1.0 Summary Fall Forward speech has been delivered by Danzel Washington in University of Pennsylvania as a commencement speech. He dedicated the speech to the graduates' students to motivate all of them to never give up in trying accomplishing something in their life.

Where was Denzel Washington fall forward speech? ›

Denzel Washington's Fall Forward speech, given as the Commencement Address at the University of Pennsylvania Monday, May 16, 2011.

What does dreams without goals are just dreams mean? ›

Dreams without goals remain dreams and fuel disappointment.” Goals serve as an anchor to your dreams. If you reach one goal at a time, you can create breakthrough change. That's why it is important to have daily, monthly and yearly goals. Goals help you make decisions too.

When you fall throughout life remember this fall forward? ›

“Fall forward. Sometimes, it's the best way to figure out where you're going. Never be discouraged, never hold back, give everything you got, and when you fall throughout life remember this: fall forward.

Who said dreams without goals are just dreams? ›

Dreams without goals, are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment.

What can we learn from Denzel Washington? ›

Five Inspiring Lessons From Oscar Winning Actor Denzel Washington Nothing is worthwhile unless you take risks. Don't you dare play small! You are born with unique and powerful gifts, and it is your responsibility to deliver them to the world. Take chances, fail, learn, try again and always be looking forward.

When did Denzel Washington give his fall forward speech? ›

Actor Denzel Washington gave a commencement speech on May 16, 2011 at the University of Pennsylvania.

What makes Denzel Washington a great speaker? ›

He spoke fluidly, and conversationally while using hand gestures to emphasize his main points. He kept his speech extremely engaging and not monotonous at all. Denzel started his speech by describing famous people who have failed prior to succeeding.

Did Denzel Washington graduate from college? ›

Denzel Washington

How old are Denzel Washington? ›

Is it OK to not have goals in life? ›

It is not only not OK, but it is humanly impossible to have no goals in life. You cannot, not have a goal. Sure, some people say they do not have any goals at all. However, if you ask deeper this is not at all the case.

What is dream of life? ›

It's something you wish and hope to achieve someday. It's aspirational rather than tangible. You might dream of being your own boss or travelling the world and going on Instagram-worthy adventures.

What is the difference between a goal and a dream? ›

A goal = some future action. Dreams provide you with the vision of where you want to go. They're your blueprint for your future life. You can't achieve a dream.

What can we learn from Denzel Washington? ›

Five Inspiring Lessons From Oscar Winning Actor Denzel Washington Nothing is worthwhile unless you take risks. Don't you dare play small! You are born with unique and powerful gifts, and it is your responsibility to deliver them to the world. Take chances, fail, learn, try again and always be looking forward.

What makes Denzel Washington a great speaker? ›

He spoke fluidly, and conversationally while using hand gestures to emphasize his main points. He kept his speech extremely engaging and not monotonous at all. Denzel started his speech by describing famous people who have failed prior to succeeding.

Who said dreams without goals are just dreams? ›

Dreams without goals, are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment.

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