- By Kathryn Armstrong
- BBC news
Actor Tom Hanks has told graduates of Harvard University in the US that “truth is sacred” and urged them to fight to defend it.
The two-time Oscar winner was the keynote speaker at the prestigious institution’s commencement ceremony for students graduating.
He himself received an honorary doctorate.
“Truth is no longer empirical for some,” he told an audience of more than 9,000 people.
“It is no longer based on data, nor common sense, not even common decency.”
Telling the truth is no longer the benchmark for public service, he said.
“Truth is now considered malleable, according to opinion, by zero-sum end games.”
Hanks also told the graduates that they had a choice of being one of “one of three kinds of Americans, those who embrace liberty and freedom for all, those who don’t want to, or those who are indifferent.”
But he said the responsibility to uphold the truth lay with everyone.
“The effort is optional. But the truth, the truth is sacred. Immutable. Carved into the stone and foundation of our republic.”
The 66-year-old’s speech was not without its lighter moments as he joked about his lack of academic qualifications.
“I don’t know much about Latin, I don’t have a real passion for enzymes and public global policies I scan in the newspaper just before doing the Wordle,” he said, referring to the popular web-based game.
Hanks asked graduates not to be “embittered” by the fact that he graduated “without doing a lick of work, without spending any time in class, without ever walking into that library.”
But he made a “damn good living playing someone who did,” he added, referring to fictional Harvard professor Robert Langdon, whom he played in the films The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and Inferno.
“It’s the way of the world, kids,” he said as his audience laughed.
Hanks, who was one of six people to receive an honorary doctorate on Thursday, also received a Harvard Volleyball, referencing one of his most famous roles in the movie Cast Away.