Tom Hanks told Harvard University graduates on Thursday to be superheroes in their defense of truth and American values, and to stand up to those who distort the truth for their own profit.
“Because the truth of others is no longer empirical. It is no longer based on data, nor common sense, nor common decency,” said the two-time Academy Award winner during his keynote address. He invoked the Latin word for truth as “veritas,” the motto of Harvard.
“Telling the truth is no longer the basis of public service,” he said. “It is no longer the salve of our fears, or the guide of our actions. Truth is now considered to be digestible, through opinion and through zero sum endgames.
That leaves the more than 9,000 graduates at Harvard’s 372nd commencement with a choice to make, as the Hollywood iconwho has played an astronaut, a soldier, a little boy in a man’s body and even a Harvard professor in a decade-long film career.
“It is the same option for all adults who must decide to become one of three types of Americans: Those who accept liberty and freedom for all; those who are not; or those who don’t care,” he said. “Only the first does the work of creating a more perfect union, a nation that cannot be divided. The others will stand in the way.”
Near the end of the speech, he brought the point home to a group that included not only undergraduates but those who had graduated from Harvard’s professional and extension schools.
“The responsibility is yours. Ours. Effort is optional. But the truth, the truth is sacred. Can’t change. Cut in stone and the foundation of our republic,” he said.
Hanks, who was awarded an honorary doctor of arts degree, mocked his own lack of academic credentials on a stage filled with some of the world’s brightest minds and best scientists.
“It’s not fair, but please don’t be offended by this fact,” Hanks said. “Now, without doing a single bit of work, without spending any time in class, without once walking into that library – to have anything to do with the graduating class of Harvard, with the teachers it, or its famous alumni – I made it. a damn good living playing someone who did,” he said in reference to his portrayal of fictional Harvard professor Robert Langdon in three movies based on Dan Brown’s novels — “The Da Vinci Code,” “Angels & Demons” and “Inferno.”
“It’s the way of the world, kids,” he said to a chorus of laughter.
Before Hanks took to the podium to deliver his speech, Harvard President Lawrence Bacow, led his final commencement before HUMILITYwho called Hanks, “Wilson’s bestie, Buzz’s buddy, Ryan’s savior, America’s dad,” and presented him with a Harvard volleyball, in honor of his role in “Cast Away,” where he would remain in good character talking to a old volleyball.
Hanks proved to be the most popular person on stage, posing for selfies with faculty members before the ceremony and congratulating the fist bumps of dozens of Harvard students graduating summa cum laude.
“May goodness and mercy follow you all the days,” he said, citing a Bible verse. “All the days of your life. Godspeed.”