In a moment of great recognition, actor Tom Hanks was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Arts by Harvard University. Harvard President Lawrence Bacow, presiding over his final commencement, also presented Tom Hanks with a Harvard volleyball as a tribute to Wilson, the iconic companion from the film Cast Away. Addressing the graduates in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Hanks delivered a commencement speech filled with humility and inspiration.
A Lighthearted Admission
With his characteristic wit, Tom Hanks jokingly acknowledged that he received the prestigious honor “without having done a lick of work, without having spent any time in class, without once walking into that library.” He playfully admitted his lack of expertise in Latin, disinterest in enzymes, and his tendency to skim through public global policy news.
Drawing From Superheroes
Tom Hanks cleverly drew parallels to America’s infatuation with superheroes, employing metaphors to deliver his powerful message. Referencing the legacy of Superman, he encouraged the class of 2023 to uphold the promise of their nation’s “promised land.” Using vivid imagery, Hanks depicted life’s challenges as a cage match, where individuals face off against agents of hubris, apathy, intolerance, and braying incompetence — comparable to malevolent adversaries like imperial Stormtroopers, Lex Luthor, and Loki.
The Nemesis of Truth
Shifting gears, Tom Hanks then explored the concept of indifference as the archenemy of truth. He emphasized the critical choice that confronts every individual daily, to be one of three types of Americans — those who embrace liberty and freedom for all, those who actively oppose it, or those who remain indifferent. He asserted that only the first group contributes to the ongoing pursuit of a more perfect union, an indivisible nation, while the others serve as obstacles. Tom Hanks garnered much praise and admiration from the audience for his speech. Twitter users expressed their appreciation, with some commenting on his captivating speaking voice and the significance of his message.