Tom Hanks urges Harvard graduates to stand up for the truth and resist indifference

Tom Hanks told Harvard University graduates last Thursday Let them be superheroes in their defense of the truth and American ideals, and to resist those who distort the truth for their own benefit.

Because the truth for some is no longer empirical. It’s no longer based on data, or common sense, or even common decency,” the two-time Academy Award winner said during his keynote address. He invoked the Latin word for truth, “veritas,” Harvard’s motto.

“Telling the truth is no longer the benchmark for public service. It is no longer the balm for our fears, or the guide for our actions. The truth is now considered malleable, by opinion and by zero-sum endings.

“Telling the truth is no longer the benchmark for public service. It is no longer the balm for our fears, or the guide for our actions. The truth is now considered malleable, by opinion and by zero-sum endings.

Actor Tom Hanks delivers a commencement address during Harvard University commencement exercises on the school's campus, Thursday, May 25, 2023, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Tom HanksActor

That left the more than 9,000 graduates at Harvard’s 372nd graduation with a decision to make, said the Hollywood icon, who has played an astronaut, a soldier, a little boy in a man’s body and even a professor of mathematics. Harvard in a race.

“It’s the same choice for all adults who have to decide to be one of three types of Americans: those who embrace freedom and freedom for all; those who won’t; or those who are indifferent,” she said. “Only the first do the work of creating a more perfect union, an indivisible nation. The others get in the way.

Near the end of the speech, he made the point to a group that included not only college students, but also those who graduated from Harvard extension and professional schools.

Hanks, who received an honorary doctorate of arts, poked fun at his own lack of academic credentials on a stage packed with some of the world’s brightest minds and leading scientists.

“It’s not fair, but please don’t be bitter about this fact,” Hanks said. “Now, without having done one iota of work, without having spent any time in class, without ever once entering that library, to have anything to do with the Harvard graduating class, its faculty, or its distinguished alumni, I make a very good living playing someone who did it,” he said, referring to his portrayal of fictional Harvard professor Robert Langdon in three films based on Dan Brown’s novels: “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons” and “Hell”.

“It’s the way of the world, kids,” he said to a chorus of laughter.

Before Hanks walked to the podium to give his speech, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow, presiding over his last graduation before leaving office, called Hanks, “Wilson’s best friend, Buzz’s friend, the savior of Ryan, America’s Father” and presented him with a Harvard volleyball, in homage to his role in “Cast Away,” where his character talks to an old volleyball to keep himself sane.

Hanks proved to be the most popular person on stage, posed for selfies with faculty members before the ceremony and congratulated dozens of students from Harvard who graduated summa cum laude.

“May goodness and mercy follow you every day,” he said, referencing a Bible verse. “All the days of your lives. Good luck.”

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