Film Legend Tom Hanks to Harvard Grads: These Are the Three Choices for All Grown-ups

Tom Hanks presses Harvard grads to be superheroes and fight for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way"


Two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks urged Harvard graduates to become superheroes in the never-ending fight for "Truth, Justice, and the American Way," warning of the perils if those who oppose freedom and democracy prevail.

“We are all in a cage match, mixed martial arts battle royale with agents of intolerance and braying incompetence, the malevolent equals to Imperial stormtroopers, Lex Luther, and Loki. And we could use a superhero right now,” the star of "Forrest Gump" and "Philadelphia" said in his keynote address. 

Speaking to the 9,000 graduates at the Ivy League school's 372nd commencement Thursday, the film legend invoked the school's motto "Veritas" - truth, according to the Harvard Gazette.

Tom Hanks giving the 2023 Commencement address at Harvard University
Tom Hanks giving the 2023 Commencement address at Harvard University Photo Credit: Harvard University/YouTube

Hanks cautioned graduates that there will be distractions in their lives as they go forward.

"But the work that is called for is the construction of our ‘more perfect union,’” he said. 

“That job will never, ever be completed, one that requires rigorous attention and unfading wherewithal and all hands. The work is the keeping of the promises of our promised land, the practice of decency, the protection of freedom, and the promotion of liberty for all, with no exceptions. That takes a lot of work done on multiple job sites every single day, and you can call each of them a battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way," the Hollywood star said.

Hanks, who played a fictional Harvard professor in three movies based on Dan Brown novels  - "The Da Vinci Code," "Angels & Demons" and "Inferno" - told the students that they have a decision before them.

"Every day, every year, and for every graduating class, there is a choice to be made, the same option for all grown-ups to make: to be one of three types of Americans — those who embrace liberty for all, those who won’t, or those who are indifferent — and only the first do the work of creating a more perfect union,” Hanks said. 

“In the never-ending battle you have all officially joined as of today, the difference is in how truly you believe, in how vociferously you promote, in how tightly you hold onto the truth that is self-evident: that, of course, we are all created equally yet differently, and of course, we are all in this together," he said.

The star of "Saving Private Ryan" who received an honorary doctor of arts degree at the school said for some truth is "malleable."

“Telling the truth is no longer the benchmark for public service,” the actor said. “It’s no longer the salve to our fears, or the guide to our actions. Truth is now considered malleable, by opinion and by zero sum endgames.”

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