Tom Hanks was granted an honorary degree from Harvard University, despite not engaging in any formal coursework. The esteemed actor graced the renowned institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to deliver a commencement address to the graduating students.
In recognition of his achievements, the university bestowed upon him an honorary doctorate of arts. In his lighthearted acceptance, Hanks humorously remarked that he received this esteemed accolade “without having done a lick of work, without having spent any time in class, without once walking into that library.” However, after eliciting laughter from the audience with his amusing anecdotes, Hanks skillfully wove metaphors inspired by America’s infatuation with superheroes into his speech.
Drawing upon the legacy of Superman, he implored the class of 2023 to uphold “the promise of our promised land.” Hanks passionately addressed the graduates, likening life’s challenges to a fierce cage match, a battle royale of mixed martial arts against adversaries such as hubris, apathy, intolerance, and braying incompetence—equivalent to nefarious figures like imperial Stormtroopers, Lex Luthor, and Loki.
“Right now,” he proclaimed, “we could all use a superhero.”
The actor proceeded to discuss the perils of indifference, identifying it as the “nemesis” of truth. Highlighting the crucial decision faced by every individual—be they graduates or mature adults—he stated, “Every day, every year, and for every graduating class, there is a choice to be made.” He expounded upon this choice, explaining that it encompasses three archetypes of Americans: those who embrace liberty and freedom for all, those who refuse to do so, and those who remain indifferent.
“Only the first group,” he emphasized, “undertakes the work of creating a more perfect union—a nation that is indivisible. The others impede progress.”
As the President of Harvard, Lawrence Bacow, presided over his final commencement before stepping down, he seized the opportunity to present Hanks with a Harvard volleyball, paying homage to Wilson from the film Cast Away.
Hanks’ speech garnered abundant praise, with one individual taking to Twitter to proclaim, “Tom Hanks is America’s Dad.” Another enthused, “Tom Hanks possesses such a beautiful speaking voice,” while a third remarked, “This concise yet profound segment of Tom Hanks’ speech resonates with me. Though logical thinking seems self-evident, I’m realizing that propaganda and fear wield immense influence in human societies. Let us spread happiness, not hate.”
A light-hearted comment quipped, “Congratulations to the Class of ’23, and don’t forget to pass your screenplay to Tom Hanks before he hops on the T.”
Although he may not have pursued formal studies, Hanks certainly compensated through his exceptional contribution and dedication.