A Legendary Presence: Tom Hanks Inspires Harvard’s Class of 2023 to Join the Battle for Truth and Justice!

Amidst the grandeur of Harvard’s 372nd Commencement, actor Tom Hanks captivated the audience with a powerful message, drawing inspiration from the beloved superheroes of American culture. Hanks asserted that while there may not be a Superman or Justice League to save the day, the world is in dire need of champions who will fight for “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”

Metaphorically delving into the realms of superhero lore, Hanks passionately urged the Class of 2023 to safeguard the promise of their nation, warning against the perils of indifference that suffocate truth, undermine the pursuit of equality, and, in his estimation, surpass even the vices of lies, ignorance, and intolerance.

The festivities commenced in Harvard Yard’s Tercentenary Theatre, choreographed by the staff and overseen by Peter John Koutoujian, the esteemed High Sheriff of Middlesex County. Adorned in academic regalia, students and faculty embarked on an elaborate procession, accompanied by invigorating speeches, melodious melodies, devout prayers, and the conferral of over 9,000 degrees upon the newly minted graduates of Harvard College and the University’s esteemed graduate schools.

“Every day, every year, and for every graduating class, the choice looms before us, a choice that resonates throughout adulthood: to be among the three archetypes of Americans—the champions of liberty, the resolute opponents, or the disinterested bystanders,” Hanks declared. “Only the first group, the true believers, embark on the arduous journey of constructing a more perfect union. And as you join this never-ending battle today, the magnitude of your commitment lies in your unwavering belief, your fervent advocacy, and your resolute grip on the self-evident truth that we are all created equal, yet distinct, and we are undeniably united.”

Distinguished honorary doctorates were bestowed upon six exemplary individuals, each leaving an indelible mark on their respective fields. Alongside Hanks, the esteemed recipients included Jennifer Doudna, the visionary co-discoverer of the revolutionary gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9; Adm. Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Katalin Karikó, the pioneering mRNA researcher whose breakthroughs laid the foundation for two leading COVID-19 vaccines; Hugo Morales, the visionary founder of the National Latino Public Radio Network; and the venerable historian David Levering Lewis, who was greeted with a soul-stirring rendition of “Happy Birthday,” commemorating his doubly momentous day.

For Harvard President Larry Bacow, the occasion held immense significance, marking his final commencement before relinquishing his position at the end of June, concluding a five-year tenure that navigated the tumultuous tides of a pandemic-ravaged era. Sharing the dais with him was Claudine Gay, the esteemed dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, poised to ascend to the presidency on July 1.

As Bacow delivered his concluding remarks, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation, acknowledging that the triumphs achieved by the graduates were not solitary victories but the collective result of the unwavering support from friends, families, and the unseen forces that built and propelled the educational institutions and organizations nurturing their intellectual growth. Bacow urged the graduates to assume the mantle of nurturers themselves, recognizing the responsibility that accompanies the fortuitous gift of education. Furthermore, he emphasized that if they perceive imperfections in the world, there is only one path to rectify them.

“I have yet to encounter an individual who perceives our world as flawless,” Bacow affirmed. “This sentiment transcends political affiliations, uniting liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and individuals spanning the entire ideological spectrum. Therefore, if you acknowledge the inherent imperfections, the only means of progress lies in the tireless efforts of exemplary individuals like yourselves, dedicated to repairing and reshaping our world. This, my dear graduates, is your sacred duty.”

Echoing Bacow’s sentiments, Hanks seized the stage, emphasizing that the ongoing struggle for truth and equality—the embodiment of the American Way—now rested upon the shoulders of the graduating class. He underscored that this battle persists not because previous generations failed to fight, but because it is a perpetual conflict, ceaselessly waged and never entirely won.

“We find ourselves embroiled in a tumultuous cage match, a grand battle royale against the forces of intolerance and insidious incompetence, akin to the malevolence of Imperial stormtroopers, Lex Luthor, and Loki. In these precarious times, we yearn for a superhero,” Hanks proclaimed.

Yet, Hanks acknowledged that our powers, though lacking capes and masks, assume a more mundane form. Some possess the ability to mend broken things, while others nurture and care for vulnerable children without forfeiting their affection. Some unravel the mysteries of physics or economics, while others endure the hardships of poverty wages. And some, against all odds, persevere through the challenges of pandemic-induced lockdowns and remote learning to emerge triumphant from the hallowed halls of academia. Hanks celebrated these accomplishments, emphasizing that despite their human origins, they constitute extraordinary feats. And it is these very individuals who are entrusted with the sacred duty of upholding truth and championing equality.

“We all have the right to rail against ‘The Man,’ and each of us carries our share of personal debts, deserving of respite from the daily grind. Nevertheless, the true calling lies in constructing our ‘more perfect union.’ This endeavor is ceaseless, requiring unwavering dedication, enduring resolve, and collective effort. The task at hand encompasses honoring the promises of our cherished homeland, embodying decency, safeguarding freedom, and ardently promoting liberty for all, without exception. Each engagement on this journey can be likened to a battle for Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” Hanks concluded, eliciting thunderous applause from the captivated audience.

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