ENGLISH SPEECH | TOM HANKS: Fear or Faith? (English Subtitles)


I know many of you were convinced last night
at about six o’clock local time the world was going to come to an end. Just because it hasn’t doesn’t mean that
it’s not nearby because my appearing today at Yale University is surely one of the four
horsemen of the apocalypse. Today is your day. Please, do not turn off your electronic devices. Leave your iPhone, your iPad, your Sidekicks,
your Droids, your blackberries powered up, recording, photographing, texting out all
that emerges from this stage over the next few minutes. Later on today you can compare your tweets and your
Facebook comments with those of others to figure out if anything memorable went down. You know what, tweet that last sentence I
just said. Take this speech and set it to music and maybe
insert some crazy kooky graphics. Starin’ that video yourself and post on the
web and if it becomes a viral sensation you’ll be equal to any cat playing with a paper bag
or any set of twin toddlers talking gibberish to each other, as popular as that cute girl
that sings about Fridays. Just one of the possibilities in our brave
new world, the world you now inherit whether you’d like it or not. The jig is up. The clock has run out and the future with
a capital ‘F’ now rests with all of you all because you went to Yale. You are now the anointed, the charge holders,
the best and brightest. Each of you is a shining hope for our nation
in the world. You are the new wizards who can finally make
sense of all the delta vectors and square roots and divided by’s out there that we
call the human race. The generations before you came of age took
on the job and now it’s your turn. I once had a friend, who had a rich uncle,
who promised to pay for his college as long as my friend wished to stay in school. “You should stay in school as long as you
can”the rich uncle said “because when you get out of college you’ve got to work
every day for the rest of your life.” You all will come to understand what that
rich uncle meant, just as surely as you will someday wonder where the hell you put your
reading glasses and yell at your own kids to turn the damn music down. On spring days like today, it’s traditional
for us to ponder the state of the world and implore you all to help make it a better place
which implies that things are somehow worse today than they were when we were sitting
where you are right now.I’m not so sure the planet earth is in worse shape than it
was 30, no 18, no four years ago. That’s not to say it’s in better shape
either. Refraining from waxing nostalgic and comparing
our then to your now and avoiding any talk of “You kids these days with your rap and
your ‘hip-hopin’ and your ‘snoopy dogg daddies with the diddy pops’, with your
“fiddy” cents and your quarter cents…” That sober look shows that just as world has
gotten to be a better place after all, and has also grown a bit worse at the exact same
rate. A one step up and one step back, sort of cosmic
balance between forward progress and cultural retreat that puts mankind on the bell curve
of existence. That shows a small segment in joy, ease and
comfort while an equal portion struggle on with little hope in the fortunes of the remainder,
either on the rise or on the wane in this confounding tide of so many damn things that
we grow oblivious to the shifts in the quality of our lives. Graduation Day is the proper occasion to put
a toe in the global waters and I think the mercury shows that things are much as they
always have been. Ten years ago we busied ourselves with trivial
stuff imbued with importance and then came 9/11. In 1991 riches were created in new businesses
that had never existed. Then that economic balloon burst.In ’81
I had a great job on T.V. and in ’82 Bosom Buddies was cancelled. In ‘71 color T.V. in more living rooms than
ever showed young Americans still fighting in combat in Vietnam and in ‘61 satellites
beamed live images around the world for the very first time but those images were of the
building of the Berlin Wall. This ten-year grid shows the same yin yang
thing; I’m trying to copyright that. It shows the same yin yang thing. We all have these devices that can make a
permanent record of revolutionary change on the other side of the globe as well as hate
filled diatribes from across town. Fewer and fewer in our country go to bed hungry
but do you see how obesity now affects half of our population? No matter how many bargains we find at the
local You-Mart many of us still struggle to pay the rent and the utilities. Our country is no longer in physical or even
ideological war with our enemies, for most of the last century, but in the 11 and half
years of the third millennium our armed forces have been fighting in the field for nine of
them. Purchasing intellectual property and the work
of artists we admire is a simple as clicking a mouse and paying less than a few bucks. Which means you may find that there is no
guarantee in making a living at your chosen discipline. Now some advantages particular to this age
are not to be denied. Boredom seems to have been vanquished. There is always something to do, but hasn’t
this translated into a perpetual distraction in our lives, in the bathroom, at the dinner
table, in the back seat, at a wedding, at a graduation day? There’s always something to check, something
to tweet, something to watch, something to download, something to share, something to
buy, someone on a voice mail, something to yank at our attention span and it’s all
in the palm of our hand for a small monthly service fee. That same technology has allowed for a surplus
of celebrities and that is nothing to cheer about. Anyone
can enjoy the perks of notoriety now and the duration of fame has been lengthened from
Andy Warhol’s brief 15 minutes to a good 15 months if you’re willing to do certain
things on camera. Though Orwellian language is often the vocabulary
of official new speak his boogie man that was the all-seeing big brother has never emerged
unless you live in North Korea or run a red light in Beverly Hills or shop online or have
done something stupid in the wrong place at the wrong time in front of someone with a
camera and their cell phone and that is everybody. Pardon my junior college Latin, the vulgus
populi has become the all-seeing state and if you cross it, Google search will forever
display your screw-up. So actually there is a big brother but he’s
not a malevolent fiction; he’s actually all of us, who lives in our search engines. So no matter how many times I do the calculations
I come up with the social draw. The positives balance the negatives. The x’s equal the y’s and our hopes weigh
as much as our fears but I hesitate on that last one because fear, good lord, fear is
a powerful physiological force of 2011. We here up in stands and surrounding you graduating
class look to you as we do every year, hoping you will now somehow through your labors free
us from what we have come to fear and we have come to fear many things. Fear has become the commodity that sells as
certainly as sex. Fear is cheap. Fear is easy. Fear gets attention. Fear is spread as fast as gossip and is just
as glamorous, juicy and profitable.Fear twist facts into fictions that become indistinguishable
from ignorance. Fear is a profit-churning goto with the whole
market being your whole family. I was sitting at the house one day, watching
the game on T.V.not long ago and along came this promo for the local nightly news. “Are our schools poisoning our children!? That story and summer’s hottest bikinis
tonight at 11:00.” In that I had school-age kids at the time
I feared that they were in fact being poisoned at school and summer was still a few weeks
away. So I tuned in to get the scoop and the actual
news story of that news broadcast was this. A certain supply of hamburger was found to
have a bit too much of a particular bacteria in it and for safety’s sake was being taken
off the market. That same hamburger was slated for sale to
an out of state school system for its cafeterias but it was recalled in time. So answering that news program’s own question,
no our schools were not poisoning our children
but yes that summer there would be some very hot bikinis at the beach. The early American naval commander John Paul
Jones said “If fear is cultivated it will become stronger. If faith is cultivated it will achieve mastery.”
and this is why I’m a big fan of history because observations in the American colonies
over 200 years ago by Nathan Hale, who lived in that building right over there, translate
word for word of the United States in 2011, “For I take that fear to be fear in large-scale. Fear itself intimidating and constant and
I take faith to be what we hold in ourselves, our American ideal of self-determination.” Fear is whispered in our ears and shouted
in our faces. Faith must be fostered by the man or woman
you see every day in the mirror. The former forever snaps at our heels and
delays our course. The latter can spur our boot heels to be wandering,
stimulate our creativity and drive us forward. Fear or faith, which will be our master? Three men found that they could no longer
sleep because of their deep seeded fears. This is a story I’m telling. Their lives were in a state of stasis because
of their constant worries. So they set out on a pilgrimage to find a
wiseman who lived high in the mountain, so high up above the tree line that no vegetation
grew, no animals lived, not even insects could be found so high up in the mountains in that
thin air. When they reached his cave the first of the
three said “Help me Wiseman for my fear has crippled me.” “What is your fear?” asked the Wiseman. “I fear death.” said the pilgrim. “I wonder when it is going to come for me.” “Death” said the wise men “let me take
away this fear my friend. Death will not come to call until you are
ready for its embrace. Know that and your fear will go away.” This calmed that pilgrim’s mind and he feared
death no longer. The Wiseman then turned to the second pilgrim
and said “What is it you fear my friend?” “I fear my new neighbors.” said the second pilgrim.“They are strangers
who observe holy days different than mine. They have way too many kids. They play music that sounds like noise.” “Strangers” said the Wiseman, “I will
take away this fear my friend. Return to your home and make a cake for your
new neighbors. Bring toys to their children. Join them in their songs and learn their ways
and you will become familiar with these neighbors and your fear will go away.” When the second man saw the wisdom in the
simple instructions he knew he would no longer fear the family who were his neighbors. There in the cave so high in the mountains
that nothing could live, the Wiseman turned to the last pilgrim and asked of his fear. “Oh Wiseman, I fear spiders. WhenI try to sleep at night I imagine spiders
dropping from the ceiling and crawling upon my flesh and I cannot rest.” “Spiders” said the Wiseman, “no shit
why do you think I live way up here.” Fear will get the worst of the best of us
and peddlers of influence count on that. Throughout our nation’s constant struggle
to create a more perfect union, establish justice and assure our domestic tranquility,
we battle fear from outside our borders, from within our own hearts every day of our history. Our nation came to be despite fear of retribution
for treason from a kingdom across the sea. America was made strong and diverse because
here people could live free from the fears that made up their daily lives in whatever
land they called the old country. Our history books tell of the conflicts taken
up to free people from fear, those kept in slavery in our own states and deliberate whole
nations under the rule of tyrants and theologies rooted in fear. The American cause, at its best, has been
the cultivation of a faith that declares we will all live in peace when we are all free
to worship as we choose, when we are free to express our hearts and when we all seek
a place free from fear but we live in the world where too many of us are too ready to
believe in things that do not exist, conspiracies. Divisions are constructed, the differences
between us are not celebrated for making us stronger but are calculated and programed
to set us against each other. Our faith is tested by unpredictable providence
and threatened when common sense is corrupted by specific interests speaking from 54 years
of experience the work towards a more perfect union isa never ending concern. It involves each and every one of us. Evidence that our nation is becoming a better
place is everywhere but each new day fear is, as the Jersey poet said, “Lurking in
the darkness on the edge of town.” Your rising from bed every morning will give
fear it’s chance to grow stronger just as it will afford faith its chance to blossom. You will make the choice to react to one or
create the other and because you are smart enough to earn your place on this college
day at Yale University you will sense the moment and you will know what to do. In the meantime ponder this front. In the struggle against ceaseless fear and
its ceaseless flow, in the coming months and years veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
will finally come home for good after so many tours. Some after many tours that wore the body and
the soul and spilled a great portion of their lives. For all of them, after a long time spent far
away in the harsh realm of war, they’ve returned different from what they were when
they left. Surely their faith in themselves is shadowed
by a fear of not knowing what is expected of them next. No matter what your view of those wars over
there you can affect the future of our nation right here by taking their fears head on. You can imprint the very next pages of the
history of our troubled world by reinforcing the faith of those returning veterans, allowing
them to rest, aiding in their recovery, if possible their complete recovery. So let those of us who watched and debated
their long deployments serve them now as they served when they were asked and as they were
ordered. Let’s provide for them their place free
from fear by educating them if they can learn, by employing them as they transition from
soldier back to citizen and by empathizing with the new journey they’re starting even
though we will never fully understand the journey they just completed. We all will define the true nature of our
American identity, not by the parades and the welcome home parties but how we match
their time in the service with service of our own. Give it four years, as many years as you’ve
spent here at Yale. In acts both proactive and spontaneous and
do the things you can to free veterans from the new uncertainty that awaits them, from
the mysterious fears they will face the day after they come home. Cultivate in them the faith to carry on and
they will do the rest. Your work begins, work that will not be always
joyful to you, labor that may not always fulfill you and days that will seem like one damn
thing after the other. It’s true you will now work every day for
the rest of your lives, that full-time job, your career as human beings and as Americans
and as graduates of Yale is to stand on the fulcrum between fear and faith, fear at your
back, faith in front of you. Which way will you lean? Which way will you move? Move forward, ever forward and tweet out a
picture of the results. It may make you famous. Thank you and congratulations.

29 Comments

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *