Well, Tom Hanks has a message for everyone: Calm down.
He recently played Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger in Clint Eastwood’s true-life film about the airline pilot who safely made an emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009 after his plane malfunctioned. Maybe a little of Sully’s coolness in the face of doom rubbed off on Hanks, because he thinks everything is going to be just fine.
During an acceptance speech at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City at a tribute to his career Tuesday, he offered a speech fit for the big screen. The audience included the Hollywood glitterati, including Steven Spielberg, Emma Watson, Steve Martin, Meg Ryan, Stephen Colbert and Christy Turlington.
His message, as Vulture noted, was simple.
“We are going to be all right,” Hanks said. “America has been in worse places than we are at right now.”
He then went on to explain those places, which he witnessed firsthand.
In my own lifetime, our streets were in chaos, our generations were fighting each other tooth and nail, and every dinner table ended up being as close to a fistfight as our families would allow. We have been in a place where we looked at our leaders and wondered what the hell were they thinking of. We’ve had moments with administrations and politicians and leaders and senators and governors where we asked ourselves, “Are they lying to us? Or do they really believe in this?” That’s all right.
Though he never mentioned Trump by name, it certainly seemed as if he were discussing the recent election when he said, “We who are a week into wondering what the hell just happened will continue to move forward.”
So why is Hanks so confident that, like Sully and his airplane, America will be safe (even if there’s a bit of, er, malfunctioning)?
The Constitution of the United States.
“That document is going to protect us, over and over again, whether or not our neighbors preserve and protect and defend it themselves,” Hanks said.
And he knows — he even referenced this Schoolhouse Rock song about it:
We have this magnificent thing that is in place. It’s a magnificent document, and it starts off with these phrases that if you’re smart enough, you memorized in school, or just read it enough so you learned it by heart, or you kind of watched those things on ABC where they taught you little songs, and the song goes like, [sings] “We the People, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice and insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare,” and it goes on and on. That.
But mostly, Hanks said, as citizens of “the greatest country in the world,” it’s important to remember that “we constantly get to define ourselves as Americans.”
We do have the greatest country in the world. We may move at a slow pace, but we do have the greatest country in the world, because we are always moving toward a more perfect Union.
Even when things seem dire, Hanks reminded us, America always bounces back. He compared the country’s progress to an unnamed song by the Boss — presumably “One Step Up,” in which Springsteen sings, “We’re the same sad story. That’s a fact. One step up and two steps back.”
That journey never ceases. It never stops. Sometimes, like in a Bruce Springsteen song, one step forward, two steps back. But we still, aggregately, move forward. We, who are a week into wondering what the hell just happened, will continue to move forward. We have to choose to do so. But we will move forward, because if we do not move forward, what is to be said about us?
Lest the cynical among us think this is a bid to run in 2020, let’s be clear: Hanks does not think he’s the man for the job. The idea was recently suggested by filmmaker Michael Moore.
“Democrats would be better off if they ran Oprah [Winfrey] or Tom Hanks,” Moore told the Guardian. “Why don’t we run beloved people? We have so many of them.”
Hanks, though, disagreed.
“Just because I’m an actor, I can give a good speech. I agree with that,” Hanks told Vulture, “but the concept of actually voting for someone just because they can do that? Then Monty Hall could have been president of the United States. I get what he’s saying, I understand, but I don’t buy my participation.”
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