Alumnus Denzel Washington Discusses "The Hurricane" With StudentsContact: Finnegan, Lisa
NEW YORK — In a message that highlighted hope, education, faith and the importance of a positive attitude, alumnus Denzel Washington, FCLC ‘77, spent close to 90 minutes talking with students about his upcoming film The Hurricane.
It was the actor’s first visit to Fordham since the early 1990s, and he spoke of his days here with pride.
"Not too long ago I was sitting in those seats," he said, pointing to the audience. "Take advantage of your time here, take advantage of your professors, because you’ve got some good people here. This is the time to experiment, to find out what it is you want to do and to go and do it."
Washington credits Fordham and former professor Robert W. Stone for guiding him into theatre and nurturing his talent. He returned at the request of two sophomores — Chris Monfette and Kevin Thurman — who want to start a Student Coordinated Lecture Series that would bring famous communications professionals to the school. The Dec. 7 event was sponsored by the Fordham Applied Media Arts Society.
Students at the event attended a special viewing of The Hurricane the night before and came prepared with questions. In the movie, Washington portrays Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, a professional boxer who was wrongfully arrested in 1966 for a triple murder that took place in a New Jersey bar. Carter spent 19 years in jail and was released after the U.S. Supreme Court decided he never received a fair trial.
Washington told students that, in films, "I increasingly look for some spiritual connection and try to find out what the point is, what it is we are trying to say. In The Hurricane , Rubin says, ‘Hate got me in, love is going to get me out [of jail].
"I thought that’s all true, but maybe he also got what he deserved," Washington said.
Washington had the opportunity to find out during a White House screening of the movie that was attended by the former boxer.
"I asked Rubin: ‘What is this hate that put you in jail? Maybe you needed this experience to make you the person you are today,’ " Washington told the students. "Then I sat back and got ready for the "Hurricane" to hit. But instead he said, ‘Yeah, you may be right.’"
The message of the movie, Washington said, is that few things are more important than self discipline and development.
"Everything that has happened to me — and much of it started right here in this school — is because of God," he said. "I’ve been blessed with something and I try to share it. I’m always looking for a way to do that."
The event was taped by CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes which is doing a special on Washington that is expected to air in the spring.
Washington was presented with a plaque from students at the Lincoln Center campus for prodding the country’s social conscience through film.
"Use your talents, use your teachers and don’t let anybody tell you can’t accomplish something," he told the students. "Just go out and do it and prove them wrong."
Founded in 1841, Fordham is New York City’s Jesuit university. It has residential campuses in the north Bronx and Manhattan, as well as academic centers in Tarrytown and Armonk, N.Y.