On college graduation day, the commencement speech often signifies the most “inspiring” part of the ceremony. After enduring the lengthy ceremony, involving thousands of students receiving their moment on the commencement stage, the graduates eagerly anticipate the engaging commencement speech. This commencement speaker is often someone desirable; perhaps the president of the institution, a significant donor, or distinguished alumni.
In special cases, the commencement speaker might be an individual receiving an honorary degree, like the NYU class of 2022, who listened to a commencement speech by their honorary doctor, Taylor Swift. In the same way, Tom Hanks received an honorary doctorate from Harvard University this year. These honorary doctorates given out during so many graduations should prompt colleges to acknowledge the existence of multiple forms of intelligence and genius beyond “school smart.”
Tom Hanks and Harvard
If you’ve ever wanted to meet Tom Hanks, it’s quite simple. Go to Harvard!
To the excitement of Harvard graduates, Tom Hanks was Harvard's class of 2023 commencement speaker. Hanks himself jokes that he didn't have to do “a lick of work” to speak on the Harvard stage and receive his doctorate. Tom Hanks will forever have the weight that the label, “Harvard graduate” carries, without ever stepping foot in the Harvard library. His sole reason for being awarded it was because of his entertainment talent.
During his speech, Hanks humorously admitted his lack of understanding of linguistics or biology, but embraced the fact that he is still a technical Harvard graduate. Hank’s speech further proved that he deserved to be present on that stage, blowing students away with his confidence and enlightening them with life lessons.
With a painfully average IQ, Tom Hanks is undeniably one of the greatest actors of all time- a genius at his craft. He was able to make a room full of Harvard graduates burst out in loud laughter during their college graduation, which is a remarkable feat in itself.
Notably, JK Rowling has multiple honorary degrees, and singer P Diddy has an honorary degree from the university from which he dropped out. Oprah Winfrey has four doctorates, two of which were bestowed upon her from ivy league schools. Amazing celebrities received doctorates from educational institutions that would have tossed out their application had they applied in their high school years. So what constitutes intelligence and who determines its measures?
Remarkable performers and actors who, under today's college admissions criteria might not have gained entry into prestigious institutions, are now receiving honorary doctorates from the best of the best. Colleges should recognize the existence of diverse areas of intelligence, proven by these recipients of honorary doctorates.
These honorees possess talents that extend beyond traditional academic intelligence, yet are undoubtedly some of the most influential people in our country today. Their accomplishments should be a wake-up call to secondary institutions, highlighting the nature of intelligence and success. Tom Hanks, for instance, has a distinct form of intelligence, which is his ability to entertain and bring joy to millions of people. He proves that intelligence cannot be confined to a single mold.
Unfortunately, the current college admissions process fails to consider the inventors, comedians, actors, and artists of the world, unless they also have exceptional skills in conventional academic areas. By implementing a more inclusive admissions process that fosters innovation and creativity, exceptional talents like Tom Hanks would not go unnoticed.
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