"You will have made it through a time of great sacrifice and great need," Tom Hanks said

By Eric Todisco
May 03, 2020 03:00 PM
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Wright State University

Graduates from Ohio's Wright State University could not have an in-person graduation due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but they did receive a virtual message of support from Tom Hanks.

On Saturday, the Oscar-winning actor — who tested positive for COVID-19 but has since recovered — sent a personal video message to the class of 2020, calling them the "chosen ones" as they enter the real world amid the ongoing health outbreak.

"You are the chosen ones because of a fate unimagined when you began your Wright State adventures,” Hanks, 63, 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."

The star, who was honored with the Tom Hanks Center for Motion Pictures at the school in 2016, added, "Part of your lives will forever be identified as 'before,' in the same way other generations tell time like 'that was before the war, or 'that was before the internet,' or 'that was before Beyoncé.' The word 'before' is going to carry great weight with you."

"You’ve gone from student to graduate with more that is expected of you than to just be an American. You’ve had to be responsible Americans. You’ve had to be good Americans. Good Americans that have made sacrifices that have saved lives," Hanks continued.

"You'll reference these past weeks for how many other weeks there are to come as 'during the pandemic,' " he said. "During the covid-19, during the lockdown, the quarantine, the shelter-in-place.' But your 'after' is not going to look the same as your during and your 'before,' "

"You will be enlightened in ways your degree never held in promise," Hanks said. "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."

Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks
David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson first announced that they had tested positive for coronavirus on March 11 while in Australia, where Hanks was shooting a film. They have since returned to Los Angeles after self-quarantining in Australia for two weeks and have been open about their experience with the contagious respiratory illness.

Last week, the famous couple each shared photos of themselves donating plasma and blood to help others recover from COVID-19.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.