About the National Archives

Welcome Remarks for Records of Achievement Awards Gala 2017


Good evening and welcome to the National Archives!


"Houston, we have a problem"

“Life was like a box of chocolates."

"Are you crying? There's no crying in baseball!"

These oft-quoted words of Jim Lovell, Forrest Gump, and Jimmy Dugan all bring to mind one man.

Tonight, we honor one of our nation’s most influential actors, filmmakers, and now author, Tom Hanks.

No actor has covered the span of 20th-century American history as has our honoree. He’s served in World War II (in both the European and Pacific Theaters), negotiated for the United States in the Cold War, fought in Vietnam, worked in Congress, and led the space program. He’s fought pirates and deadly viruses, befriended mermaids, and saved both Private Ryan and Gary Powers.

Off-screen, he supports military veterans and caregivers, environmental issues, and the space program. Furthermore, Tom’s a self-described “geek” who collects and still uses typewriters––two characteristics that alone make him worthy of this honor! He has recently written his first book “Uncommon Type: Some Stories.” It features 17 short stories that each involve a different variety of typewriter. He even has an app! The Hanx Writer replicates the experience of writing on a typewriter, complete with clacking key sounds and a “ping” upon reaching the end of a line. Is there anything Tom Hanks doesn’t do?

He’s been called “the coolest guy ever,” which gives us geeks at the National Archives hope. His many honors include a place in the Army Ranger Hall of Fame, two Oscars, and an asteroid named for him.

And he is related to Abraham Lincoln! Nancy Hanks was Lincoln’s mother.

Tom has an incredible love for history. Through his production company, he produced historical miniseries such as “John Adams,” “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific,” and “From the Earth to the Moon.” These series have helped bring a whole new audience to the National Archives, interested in learning more about American History.

In many ways, the National Archives and Tom Hanks and his many roles and interests are intertwined. We have millions of military records on World War II, including Amos Hanks’s military personnel record (Tom’s father). We have NASA records concerning the Apollo Space Program. We hold Supreme Court cases, including one for Rudolph Abel. We have many telegrams, proclamations, and executive orders signed by Tom’s relative Abraham Lincoln. We even have patent drawings for typewriters!

We would not be here tonight if it wasn’t for our partner, the National Archives Foundation, helping the National Archives reach an ever-larger and more diverse audience each year. With the support of the Foundation and generous benefactors like you, we celebrated our annual 4th of July Reading of the Declaration on the steps of this building. We concluded our nationwide series of National Conversations on Rights and Justice. We held several widely popular History Happy Hours. We also had two National Archives Rotunda sleepovers. And we will launch our next exhibit “Remembering Vietnam” on Veterans Day in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery.

Steven Spielberg once said Tom Hanks is “America.” He is the everyman, an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances. Everyone can relate to a Tom Hanks character. We understand the astronaut on Apollo 13, or the captain in Saving Private Ryan, or the widowed father who is sleepless in Seattle. Tonight is our opportunity to celebrate Tom’s storied career and express our gratitude for spreading history through his films.

Thank you for joining us this evening as we celebrate our public-private partnership with the Foundation and pay tribute to Tom Hanks.