Tom Hanks delivers the Commencement Address | Harvard Commencement 2023 | Summary and Q&A

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May 26, 2023
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Harvard University
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Tom Hanks delivers the Commencement Address | Harvard Commencement 2023

TL;DR

In a passionate speech, the speaker emphasizes the importance of truth, justice, and the American way, urging graduates to embrace these values and work towards a more perfect union.

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Key Insights

  • 😑 Success without effort can be unfair, but gratitude should be expressed for the opportunities received.
  • 💨 Superheroes in fiction represent the ongoing struggle for truth, justice, and the American way.
  • ✊ Individuals have the power to be real-life superheroes and make positive change in the world.
  • 🐕‍🦺 Truth is essential to public service and maintaining a just society.
  • 🌎 Indifference can undermine the pursuit of truth and erode the promise of America.
  • 🗽 Citizens have a responsibility to embrace liberty, freedom, and equality for all.
  • 💨 The American way is built on the belief that all individuals are created equal.

Transcript

  • Now listen, it's not fair, but please don't be embittered by this fact. Now without having done a lick of work, without having spent any time in class, without once walking into that library in order to have anything to do with the graduating class of Harvard, it's faculty or it's a distinguished alumni, I make a good living playing someone who d... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why does the speaker mention superheroes like Superman?

The speaker uses superheroes as symbols of the ongoing struggle for truth, justice, and the American way. These characters exemplify the power and responsibility individuals have to fight for what is right.

Q: What is the importance of truth in the American way?

Truth is considered sacred and unalterable in the American way. The speaker emphasizes that telling the truth is essential for public service, guiding actions, and maintaining a just society.

Q: Why does the speaker mention indifference as a nemesis to truth?

The speaker believes that indifference can undermine the pursuit of truth and erode the promise of America. Indifference allows for lies, propaganda, and the erosion of rights and freedoms.

Q: What is the responsibility of citizens in the American way?

The responsibility of citizens is to embrace liberty and freedom for all, to do the work of creating a more perfect union, and to uphold and promote the truth that all individuals are created equal.

Q: Why does the speaker mention superheroes like Superman?

The speaker uses superheroes as symbols of the ongoing struggle for truth, justice, and the American way. These characters exemplify the power and responsibility individuals have to fight for what is right.

More Insights

  • Success without effort can be unfair, but gratitude should be expressed for the opportunities received.

  • Superheroes in fiction represent the ongoing struggle for truth, justice, and the American way.

  • Individuals have the power to be real-life superheroes and make positive change in the world.

  • Truth is essential to public service and maintaining a just society.

  • Indifference can undermine the pursuit of truth and erode the promise of America.

  • Citizens have a responsibility to embrace liberty, freedom, and equality for all.

  • The American way is built on the belief that all individuals are created equal.

  • The pursuit of truth and justice is an ongoing endeavor that requires the work and effort of citizens.

Summary

In this video, the speaker emphasizes the importance of truth, justice, and the American way. He mentions how superheroes like Superman have used their powers to fight for the truth and expose wrongdoing. He acknowledges that while he himself may not have the same level of knowledge or passion for certain subjects, he still recognizes the need for someone to take on the role of a superhero in our world today. He urges the graduating class to embrace their own unique abilities and work towards a more perfect union and a nation indivisible.

Questions & Answers

Q: How does the speaker describe his own background and achievements?

The speaker acknowledges that he has not studied at prestigious institutions or earned advanced degrees, but he has made a successful career by playing a character who did. He humorously mentions his educational background and credits his graduation from the School of Hard Knocks for his varied experiences.

Q: What were the qualities and actions of superheroes like Superman?

Aside from their impressive superpowers, superheroes like Superman were known for using their abilities to protect and save others. They fought for truth, justice, and the American Way. They exposed crooks and their lies to the light of day, making sure that evil was banished and the innocent were rescued.

Q: Why does the speaker believe we need superheroes in our world today?

The speaker explains that there is a constant struggle against forces of hubris, apathy, intolerance, and incompetence. He emphasizes that there is no Superman or Justice League in real life, and it is up to us as ordinary people to become the superheroes our world needs. He recognizes the energy, imagination, and compassion in the graduating class and hopes that they will take on the never-ending battle for truth and justice.

Q: How does the speaker define the American way?

The speaker suggests that the American way encompasses actions both big and small that exemplify good values and consideration for others. It involves respecting the law and the rights of all, appreciating and expressing gratitude to those who serve us, taking care of our environment, participating in democracy, and learning from both victories and losses. The American way is also about recognizing and upholding the inalienable rights of liberty and freedom for all individuals, regardless of their background.

Q: What does the speaker believe is required for the construction of a more perfect union?

The speaker asserts that constructing a more perfect union requires rigorous attention, unwavering determination, and collective effort. It involves keeping the promises of our promised land, practicing decency, protecting freedom, and promoting liberty for everyone. This, he says, is a lifelong job with no expiration date.

Q: How does the speaker describe the language of truth?

The speaker explains that the language of truth is both philosophical and practical. He mentions Latin references, answering questions with questions, and the importance of telling the truth. He argues that truth is often elusive and faces opposition from propaganda, lies, indifference, and manipulation. However, truth is self-evident and can be found at the intersections of personal behaviors, transparency, and honesty.

Q: What threat does indifference pose to the American way and truth?

The speaker warns that indifference can corrode the promise of our promised land. It can lead people to become apathetic and weary, creating a vacuum that despots and tyrants seize to grab power. Indifference allows falsehoods, cynicism, and intimidation to thrive, eroding the importance of truth. The speaker believes that indifference is one of the greatest enemies of truth and the American way.

Q: How does the speaker believe the American way can be sustained in everyday life?

The speaker suggests that the American way can be sustained through individual actions and behaviors in daily life. Respecting the law and the rights of all, showing gratitude, being environmentally conscious, voting, and learning from experiences are all ways to uphold the American way. He encourages each person to embrace their role in creating a more perfect union and holding onto the truth that all individuals are created equally.

Q: How does the speaker differentiate between different types of Americans?

The speaker categorizes Americans into three types: those who embrace liberty and freedom for all, those who do not, and those who are indifferent. He asserts that only those who embrace liberty and freedom can contribute to the work of creating a more perfect union. The others, who either reject or remain indifferent to these values, obstruct progress and hinder the American way.

Q: What message does the speaker want to leave the graduating class with?

The speaker concludes by expressing his hope that the graduating class will use their energy, imagination, and proclaimed wisdom to make a difference. He reminds them that while no one is a superhero or superhuman, everyone possesses unique abilities and powers. He urges them to believe in the self-evident truth that all individuals are entitled to liberty and justice, and to work tirelessly to uphold these principles in their lives.

Takeaways

The speaker emphasizes the importance of truth, justice, and the American way, urging the graduating class to embrace their own unique powers and work towards a more perfect union. He highlights the significance of telling the truth and staying vigilant against propaganda and indifference. The American way is about respecting all individuals, upholding liberty and freedom, and creating a society that embodies these ideals. Each person has a role to play in carrying on the legacy of superheroes, by fighting for truth, justice, and the American way in their everyday lives.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker acknowledges the unfairness of his success without much effort, but expresses gratitude for the opportunities he has had.

  • He highlights the role of superheroes in fighting for truth, justice, and the American way, and emphasizes the need for real-life superheroes in today's world.

  • The speaker urges graduates to recognize their own abilities and powers to make positive change, and calls for the ongoing work of creating a more perfect nation.

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