Rhetorical Analysis Tom Hanks' Vassar Speech in 2005
Famous actors, musicians, politicians, artists and authors are often called upon to deliver commencement addresses at prestigious places of higher learning. It doesn't take Nobel-Prize-winning social scientists or psychologists, or speech professors to predict what these elite guest speakers will say on such occasions such as these. The speaker will tell the graduating class to aim high, never give up, make the most of opportunities, and do as our forbearers did: pull yourselves up by the bootstraps. But when Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks showed up at Vassar College to present the commencement address, his presentation avoided those clichés and platitudes. Hanks was refreshing original and yet remarkably pragmatic. This paper critiques Hanks' themes, examines his rhetorical techniques, and editorially analyzes his purpose.
The Power of Four
Hanks started his presentation by alluding to transportation problems in big cities, pointing directly at a highway system he knows very well those gridlocked freeways in Southern California. A graduating student that wasn't immediately star-struck by the presence of a superstar Hollywood actor could have been excused for wondering what gridlock has to do with the future of Vassar graduates. Hanks went on to talk about the waste of time and energy and the negative impact too many cars on the freeway have on the environment and noted that like other dilemmas Americans