The actor from 'A Man Called Otto,' said that telling the truth is no longer the benchmark for public service.
Tom Hanks is now an official holder of a doctorate. The "Forrest Gump" actor received an honorary doctorate of arts from Harvard University on May 25 and delivered a commencement address to graduates in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As the United States counters a disinformation crisis, Hanks told Harvard students on Thursday to be superheroes and defend truth and American ideals and resist those who twist the truth for their gain.
"For the truth to some is no longer empirical," Hanks said, reported The Guardian. "It is no longer based on data, nor common sense, nor even common decency.” Hanks shared his motto and cited the Latin word for truth, “veritas.”
The actor from "A Man Called Otto," said that telling the truth is no longer the benchmark for public service. “It’s no longer the salve to our fears or the guide to our actions," he noted. "Truth is now considered malleable, by opinion and by zero-sum endgames." He said that the speech left over 9,000 graduates at Harvard’s 372nd commencement with a choice to make.
“It’s the same option for all grownups who have to decide to be one of three types of Americans: those who embrace liberty and freedom for all; those who won’t; or those who are indifferent,” he said. “Only the first do the work of creating a more perfect union, a nation indivisible. The others get in the way. The responsibility is yours. Ours. The effort is optional. But the truth, the truth is sacred. Unalterable. Chiseled into the stone and the foundation of our republic."
Hanks also poked fun at how he received the degree "without having done a lick of work, without having spent any time in class, without once walking into that library," and showed gratitude at being able to stand in a room filled with the brightest and accomplished individuals. “It’s not fair, but please don’t be embittered by this fact,” Hanks said. “Now, without having done a lick of work, without having spent any time in class, without once walking into that library–to have anything to do with the graduating class of Harvard, its faculty, or its distinguished alumni–I make a damn good living playing someone who did.”
Hanks has played the fictional Harvard professor Robert Langdon in three movies based on Dan Brown’s novels, "The Da Vinci Code," "Angels & Demons" and "Inferno."
Lawrence Bacow, the president of Harvard University, called Hanks, “Wilson’s bestie, Buzz’s buddy, Ryan’s savior, America’s dad,” and presented him with a Harvard volleyball as a nod to his role in "Cast Away," where Wilson (the volleyball) serves as Chuck Noland's (Tom Hanks) friend and only companion on a deserted island.
After Hanks stepped down from the podium, he engaged in a marathon of selfies with faculty members and gave congratulatory fist bumps to Harvard graduates. “May goodness and mercy follow you all the days,” he said. “All the days of your lives. Godspeed.”
According to PEOPLE, Harvard announced Hanks as its 2023 principal speaker in March, with university president Larry Bacow saying in a statement at the time that the actor has "contributed to our national culture and expanded our ability to appreciate stories and histories that have been previously unexamined."
"A true master of his craft, Tom Hanks has given life to some of the most compelling, beloved, and iconic characters on the screen," Bacow said. "Over five decades, he has entertained, enlightened, and befriended us. He has made us laugh, cry, question and think."