The night was supposed to be all about him, but he made it about us.
Tom Hanks used the occasion of his tribute from the Museum of Modern Art’s film benefit, presented by Chanel, on Tuesday night to deliver a Tom Hanks-ian monologue addressing the despair many in the entertainment industry feel about Donald Trump’s election as president. It was the climactic scene from the third act of many a Hanks movie, and it was just what the audience at MoMA needed to hear.
Hanks never mentioned Trump by name, but there was no mistaking the point of his remarks. He referenced “Schoolhouse Rock” and Bruce Springsteen, and he emphasized the sanctity of the Constitution no matter what. To wit:
“We are going to be all right. America has been in worse places than we are at right now,” Hanks said. “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 fist fight as human families will allow.”
“We have been in a place where we have looked at our leaders and wondered what the hell they were thinking of. We’ve had moments with the administrations and politicians and senators and governors in which we have we’ve asked ourselves ‘Are they lying to us or do they really believe in this?’ That’s all right.
“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’ve memorized in school or you just read enough so that you know it by heart, or you watched those little things on ABC where they taught you little songs in order to sing, and the song goes (singing): ‘We the people/in order to form a more perfect union/established to ensure domestic tranquility/to provide for the common defense/promote the general welfare,’ and you go on and on. That document is going to protect us over and over again whether or not our neighbors preserve, protect, and defend it themselves.
“We are going to be all right because we constantly get to tell the world who we are. We constantly get to define ourselves as Americans. We do have the greatest country in the world. We move at a slow pace. We have the greatest country in the world because we are always moving towards a more perfect union.
“That journey never ceases, it never stops. Sometimes, to quote a Bruce Springsteen song, it’s 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 of us?
“We will take everything that has been handed to us as Americans and we will turn our nation and we will turn the future and we will turn all the work that we have in before us into some grand thing of beauty,” Hanks said, to a standing ovation.
Hanks’ comments were preceded by a slew of friends and colleagues paying brief tributes to the two-time Oscar winner. Emma Watson, his co-star in an upcoming movie, was on hand, as were Aaron Eckhart (his costar in the Oscar buzz movie “Sully”) and Steve Martin, along with taped messages from Oprah Winfrey, Ron Howard, and “Sully” director Clint Eastwood.