On Wednesday evening in the auditorium of the Museum of Modern Art, the actor Tom Hanks sang the opening lines of the United States Constitution to a room full of guests including Emma Watson, David Letterman, Meg Ryan, and Hollywood's most powerful Steves: Steven Martin, Steven Spielberg, and Steven Colbert.
"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare… I could go on," he said.
The occasion was MoMA’s ninth annual film benefit presented by Chanel, which this year honored Hanks and his prolific body of work, including classics like Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Saving Private Ryan, and most recently, Sully. And following the election of Donald Trump last week, the Oscar-winner and the Most Trusted Man In America according to a 2013 Reader's Digest poll, knew exactly what everyone needed to hear.
It is because of this unwavering humility and charm that the director Michael Moore named Hanks last weekend as a good candidate for the presidential ticket in 2020. And with a reality star now in the White House, it wasn't that far-fetched of an idea. Moore also suggested Oprah Winfrey, who was at MoMA in spirit that night in the form of video message in which she shouted with open arms: "Tribuuuuuuute!"
Despite his familiarity with the Constitution, however, Hanks was not amused by the suggestion that he should run for political office. "I want to strangle Michael Moore," he told the audience. But his speech was preceded by heartfelt remarks from Emma Watson, who starred alongside him in The Circle, his longtime friend Steve Martin, and his Sully co-star Aaron Eckhart — all of whom made it hard to imagine him not making a good leader.
"The task of living up to other peoples’ expectations of you must feel like a lot sometimes," said Watson, "But he wears that burden lightly."
When Eckhart came to the stage, he spoke about Hanks' long career of winning audiences hearts and trust. “Think about this," he said. "Whenever anyone in the world sees a box of chocolate or a volleyball, a picture of Tom Hanks pops into their heads.”
As for Martin, however, he tried to offer some counter-arguments for why we shouldn't trust Hanks: "He flies privately," he said to roaring laughter. "You would too if you had his ties to Russia! And if you rub your cheek against his, it’s unpleasant." Of course, in the end he came up short.
When asked if he had any words of advice for the President Elect on how to win the trust of America, Hanks told W magazine: “By not lyin’! I learned a long time ago that you can’t lie, but you’ve got to tell just enough of the truth so that you can be authentic."
Hanks then went on to say how when he remembered when the broadcast journalist Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America. (Oh, how times have changed.) "During the Nixon years, everyone said Walter Cronkite should be President of the United States," said Hanks. "But Walter Cronkite was authentic because he could tell the truth from his venue. I try to do the same; I have a venue and I have a voice. But that doesn’t necessarily translate to the give and take that is required of people who lead and push forward policy. I can only push forward a philosophy — that does not qualify me for being a person in public office."
So, Tom Hanks is not going to run for president in 2020, but in the meantime he can give a damn good speech.
“We are going to be alright," he told the audience in his familiar, impactful voice. "We are going to be alright because we have this magnificent document in place..." and then he went on to recite the Constitution. "This document is going to protect us," he continued. "We are going to be alright because we constantly get to tell the world who we are. We have the greatest country in the world because we are always moving towards a more perfect union. That journey never ceases. Sometimes, like in 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 chose to do so, but we will. Because if we do not, what is to be said of us?”