Tom Hanks receives Honorary Doctorate from Harvard 

The Academy Award-winning actor also delivered a speech on resisting indifference at the ceremony 
Harvard named Tom as its 2023 commencement speaker back in March
Harvard named Tom as its 2023 commencement speaker back in March

On May 25, Harvard University conferred an honorary doctorate of arts on Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. In addition, the Ivy League school gave the actor a volleyball with the Harvard logo, in reference to his 2000 film Cast Away.

Harvard named Tom as its 2023 commencement speaker back in March. President Larry Bacow said at the time that the actor has "contributed to our national culture and expanded our ability to appreciate stories and histories that have been previously unexamined." 

During his commencement speech addressing the graduating students at Harvard Yard's Tercentenary Theatre, the Hollywood veteran poked fun at his lack of academic credentials, saying,  “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, its faculty, or its distinguished alumni – I make a damn good living playing someone who did,” referring to his portrayal of fictional Harvard professor Robert Langdon in the movies The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons and Inferno, based on Dan Brown's novels of the same name. 

Once the mood had lightened up, the actor turned to a more urgent matter about resisting the "indifference of a people who have been made weary by struggle", while making references to Superman and other superheroes. "Indifference makes citizens into indentured servants held in labour by the despots and tyrants whose default setting is cynicism, who outlawed dissent and ban art and dialogue and books," he said. 

"It's the same option for all grown-ups who have to decide to be one of three types of Americans: those who embrace liberty and freedom for all, those who won't or those who are indifferent," the 66-year-old actor added. "Only the first do the work of creating a more perfect union, a nation indivisible. The others get in the way."

The Forrest Gump star studied theatre at Chabot College and later graduated from California State University in Sacramento, Calif., before embarking on an illustrious acting career that has since spanned over 40 years and two Academy Award wins.

Aside from Tom, Harvard also honoured five others with honorary degrees, including Katalin Karikó, a biochemist whose research was essential to the development of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Covid vaccines, and Hugo Morales, the executive director and founder of Radio Bilingüe, the National Latino Public Radio Network. 

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