Tom Hanks congratulates graduates of an Ohio college in virtual commencement speech

By Alicia Lee, CNN

(CNN) -- With the coronavirus pandemic canceling in-person graduation ceremonies across the US, students are feeling robbed of one of life's biggest moments. But leave it to America's dad, Tom Hanks, to uplift spirits.

The Oscar-winning actor delivered an inspiring message to the graduating class of Ohio's Wright State University during a virtual ceremony on Saturday. During the five-minute video, Hanks congratulated the graduates and called them the "chosen ones."

"I am calling you 'chosen ones' because you have been chosen in many ways," Hanks said. "First, by the temperament and discipline you've lived by, by the creative fires that are inside of you and the instinctive lunges of your desires... You succeeded because of the aid and the love of others that are in your lives, without a doubt. But you have succeeded mostly because you, and you alone, chose to do so."

Hanks then referenced the coronavirus pandemic that put him and his wife Rita Wilson in the hospital after they tested positive for the virus in March. They have since recovered, and recently donated their plasma to help other coronavirus patients.

"You are the chosen ones because of a fate unimagined when you began your Wright State adventures," Hanks said. "You started in the olden times, in a world back before the Great Pandemic of 2020. You will talk of those earlier years in your lives in just that way."

"You will be enlightened in ways your degree never held in promise. You will have made it through a time of great sacrifice and great need. No one will be more fresh to the task of restarting our normalcy than you -- our chosen ones," the 63-year-old star added.

Hanks has had a long-standing relationship with WSU. In 2016, he visited the school to dedicate the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures, and has also helped lead a fundraising campaign that raised more than $167 million for the school.

"The future is always uncertain," Hanks said when concluding his virtual speech. "But we who celebrate what you have done, who celebrate all of your achievements, we are certain of one thing on this day: You will not let us down."

Unable to show off their caps and gowns in person, some graduates commemorated the moment on social media.

"I'm sooo proud of myself," one graduate tweeted. "With everything I still left Wright State University with a 4.0. The chosen one."

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