Denzel Washington: A True Character On and Off the Screen

It is hard to even begin to describe how incredibly talented Denzel Washington is as an actor. Hailed as one of America’s favorite movie stars, not even mega-stars like Tom Cruise and Will Smith can claim his repertoire and consistency at the box office. Washington has mastered roles like a hero pilot who successfully lands a catastrophically damaged plane despite the fact he’s flying high himself on a cocktail of alcohol and drugs in the film Flight.

He played the incomparable role asMalcolm X. He left us in awe in Glory and The Great Debaters. He made our hearts race with excitement in Unstoppable. He made us all shed tears in John Q. He even made us despise and fear him in Training Day. These are only a drop in his bucket of film feats. Even with his A-list status, Golden Globes, Tony and Academy Awards, Washington understands full well that there are more important things in life than his fame and film roles. With that, his charitable actions shine just a bright as his career undertakings making him one truly great character.

True to his background, Washington once retreated to his local Boys and Girls Club when he was growing up as a confused and angry teen. He has since taken on the long-time role as a national spokesperson for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. We have all seen Washington’s Public Service Announcements for the organization, but not only has he been featured in several awareness campaigns, he has served as a board member since the early 90s. As well, he has helped launch the organization’s recent, new mission of improving graduation rates for children across America.

True to his art, Washington has donated $2 million to his alma mater, Fordham, for an endowed chair of the theatre department, as well as $250,000 for a theatre-specific scholarship to Fordham.

True to his work, Washington donated $1 million to Willey College to re-establish its debate team after he filmed The Great Debaters, a true story about a 1930s debate team, from the historically African American college. Washington, who has captured us in his roles as a soldier in critically acclaimed films like Cry Freedom and A Soldier’s Story, allows his art to imitate life as he participated in a Purple Heart ceremony at the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC), presenting medals to three Army soldiers recovering in the hospital from wounds they received while stationed in Iraq. He has also been known to visit the Fisher House facilities, temporary housing for military families while their loved ones are receiving medical care, and made a substantial donation to the Fisher House Foundation. In addition, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia named Washington as one of only three people (Oliver Stone and Michael Moore being the other two) with whom they were willing to negotiate for the release of three defense contractors that the group had held captive from 2003 to 2008.

Washington’s other charity work includes donating $1 million to the Children’s Fund of South Africa. Washington is an Honorary Chairperson for Save Africa’s Children, an African American founded organization, providing direct support to children affected by HIV/AIDS, poverty and war throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. Washington also established the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience, a program that awards students who are pursuing careers in that field. Furthermore, Washington is a lifetime founder and member of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund which develops partnerships and initiates programs to empower and improve the well-being of children and youth.

True to his character, Denzel Washington has substantiated himself as an honorable character on screen and a noble human off the screen.