By Doug Gross
Denzel Washington says his path to becoming an Academy Award-winning actor was paved by people like an English teacher and a barber he knew as a child.
Washington's new book, "A Hand To Guide Me," gathers together essays by more than 70 entertainment, sports, business and political leaders who tell the stories of their own childhood mentors.
"It's a celebration of the people behind the people — those who don't get the recognition who influence the Bill Clintons or the Jimmy Carters or the George Steinbrenners of the world," Washington said Thursday in a phone interview from New York, where he is promoting the book.
Both former presidents and the New York Yankees owner are joined in the book by celebrities from rocker John Mellencamp to actress Whoopi Goldberg to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick.
The book is a fundraiser for the Atlanta-based Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
In Washington's own story, he writes that he took inspiration as a child from a counselor at the club — then just the Boys Club — in his hometown of Mount Vernon, N.Y., a high school English teacher who had students read the New York Times every morning. He also found a mentor in a barber at a shop where he earned money sweeping.
He said he hopes the book will inspire adults to "find themselves in it and reach out" to a child who may need a similar guiding hand.
"We all have the potential to help out and inspire young people and to make an impression upon them," Washington said.
Washington, who is making no money from the book, said 60 percent of the proceeds will go to the Boys and Girls Clubs, with a quarter of that going to his childhood club in Mount Vernon.
Washington, who won the Oscar for Best Actor in 2002 for "Training Day" and for Best Supporting Actor in 1989's "Glory," next appears in "Deja Vu," a science fiction thriller that opens Nov. 22.
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