Tom Hanks delivered a commencement address to Harvard’s 2023 graduating class in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Thursday.

The university granted the celebrated actor an honorary degree of arts. He joked that other than playing a Harvard professor in The Da Vinci Code movies, they gave him the degree without him having to do “a lick of work, without having spent any time in class [and] without once walking into that library.” He later quipped, “public global policy is something I scan in the newspaper just before I do the Wordle.”

But then, Hanks became more serious, calling on the graduating students to stand up against the “indifference of a people who have been made weary by struggle.” He continued, saying that indifference “makes citizens into indentured servants.”

In one section, Hanks lashed out at those who would “ban books” in an apparent swipe at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who just announced his candidacy for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.


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Hanks also told the graduating class that they are now given the same choice as all American adults. They could be “those who embrace liberty and freedom for all, those who won’t or those who are indifferent. Only the first do the work of creating a more perfect union, a nation indivisible. The others get in the way.”

He then stated that the responsibility is “ours” to keep the truth “sacred.”

Before his address, students from Harvard’s theater group, Hasty Pudding, gave a performance that honored the Oscar-winner’s most famous acting roles.

Hanks and his wife, film producer and actress Rita Wilson, appeared at the 2023 Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday for the world premiere of their new movie, Asteroid City. The Wes Anderson-directed film received a five-minute-long standing ovation afterward.

Asteroid City comes out in limited release on June 16 before launching nationwide on June 23.

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