Tom Hanks on Tuesday urged all Americans to participate in every election at all levels as their democratic duty.
“Not just for your big boys who show up on the cable TV news station, but also for your local folks — people who really impact your lives,” Hanks said during a voter registration rally at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood.
Local elections decide the leadership responsible for the likes of fixing potholes and improving schools, as well as “the folks who can make sure traffic lights are timed so that traffic is not so miserable in this town,” Hanks said, to laughter from the audience.
“I speak to you from this historic building in the heart of Pittsburgh — a city I’ve spent exactly nine days of my life in,” Hanks said, to more laughter.
The Academy Award-winning actor and filmmaker has been in the region researching and filming the Mr. Rogers biopic, “You Are My Friend,” in which Hanks will star as Fred Rogers.
Hanks headlined an event organized by When We All Vote, a nonprofit announced by Michelle Obama in July in an effort to increase the number of registered voters and civic participation rates.
Several hundred people — many of them students at neighboring universities — attended the local rally, which was among several star-studded voter registration events happening from Miami to Las Vegas during When We All Vote’s “week of action.”
“When we all vote, we force politicians to listen to us,” organization spokeswoman Abby Wolensky said as she introduced speakers including Steelers running back James Conner, team executive Jim Rooney and Kiya Tomlin, coach Mike Tomlin’s wife.
“Let’s resist becoming a nation of spectators,” Tomlin, a fashion designer, told the crowd.
During his roughly 15-minute remarks, Hanks recited the preamble to the U.S. Constitution and touched on the importance of the rule of law, justice for all and civic duties of not only self-responsibility but promoting the “general welfare” and “domestic tranquility” of all Americans.
“’We the people of the United States’ — that means every, single one of us. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, it doesn’t matter what party you’re affiliated with, it doesn’t matter if you want to maintain the status quo, or change the flow and direction of the country. It means every single one of us,” Hanks said.
“We will never be a perfect place. We will never be a perfect government, but we will always be the ‘promised land,’ as described in great Bruce Springsteen songs,” Hanks said. He noted that, when we he travels to a third-world region where people are struggling, he hears people saying to him, “Take me with you.”
To “form a more perfect union,” citizens should strive to choose leadership “that more accurately reflects who we are as a people, what we are made of as our heritage and how we go about fulfilling the promise of the ‘promised land,’” Hanks said.
The deadline to register for Nov. 6 elections in Pennsylvania is Oct. 9.
Hanks asked every voter to bring four voters with them to the polls, and he offered up a “simple secret” to succeed in doing so: Bring donuts.
“Nobody turns down a free ride to the polling place and a delicious donut afterward,” Hanks said.
Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Natasha at 412-380-8514, [email protected] or via Twitter @NewsNatasha.