SPECIAL EDITION: TOM HANKS HELPS VETERANS

Encore: November 27, 2020

Hollywood heavyweight Tom Hanks will shed light on his personal journey and work with some of America’s bravest warriors through a program bringing them onto the stage, behind the scenes of theater production and into the world of William Shakespeare.

Aired on July 3, 2019 and November 29, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

'METROFOCUS,' ACTOR TOM HANKS, THE HOLLYWOOD HEAVYWEIGHT TAKES US ON HIS PERSONAL JOURNEY FROM THE FRONT LINE TO THE HOME FRONT AS HE WORKS WITH SOME OF AMERICA'S BRAVEST WARRIORS BY BRINGING THEM ON TO THE STAGE AND BEHIND THE SCENES OF THEATER PRODUCTION AND INTO THE WORLD OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

GUYS AND WOMEN WHO HAVE SERVED OUR COUNTRY NOW ARE TRANSITIONING INTO WHATEVER THAT NEXT PHASE OF THEIR LIVES ARE, WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT IF SOME OF THEM WENT INTO THIS VERY LINE OF WORK, THE SAME ONE I'M IN.

TOM HANKS AND HIS SUPPORT AND SALUTE TO AMERICA'S VETERANS.

THIS VERY SPECIAL EDITION OF 'METROFOCUS' STARTS RIGHT NOW.

THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM, BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSLYN P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG AND BY --

CORPORATE FUNDING FOR 'METROFOCUS' WAS PROVIDED BY MUTUAL OF AMERICA, YOUR RETIREMENT COMPANY.

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JACK FORD.

TONIGHT WE CONTINUE WITH OUR SERIES FROM THE FRONT LINE TO THE HOME FRONT, AN INVESTIGATION OF POST 9/11 VETERANS BACK HOME AND IN TRANSITION.

BUT FIRST HERE IS A QUESTION FOR YOU, WHAT ARE TOM HANKS, SOME OF AMERICA'S BRAVEST WARRIORS AND SHAKESPEARE ALL HAVE IN COMMON?

IF NOT, LET ME ENLIGHTEN YOU, THEY ARE ALL PLAYERS ON A STAGE, BUILT IN A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS AND THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER OF LOS ANGELES.

TOGETHER THEY ARE ACTING, BUILDING SETS AND PRODUCING.

LET'S TAKE A QUICK LOOK AT SOME OF THEIR WORK.

I'M TOM HANKS, I'M AN ACTOR AND I'M PLAYING FALSTAFF IN THE SHAKESPEARE LOS ANGELES PRODUCTION OF HENRY IV.

ON THIS VERY STAGE THAT HAS, IN FACT, BEEN BUILT BY VETERANS.

I PLAY MISS STRESS QUICKLY WHO RUNS THE TAVERN IN THE PLAY HENRY IV.

THEY INFORMED US THAT WE WERE GOING TO BE ON THE GROUND OF THIS BEAUTIFUL VA FACILITY IN WEST L.A.

THE IDEA THAT THE VETERANS IN TRANSITION WERE GOING TO BE OUR RUNNING CREW AND THEY ACTUALLY BUILT THE SETS AND THEY LITERALLY CARVED THE THEATER OUT OF THE WOODS, OUT OF NOTHING.

GUYS AND WOMEN WHO, YOU KNOW, HAVE SERVED OUR COUNTRY AND NOW ARE TRANSITIONING INTO WHATEVER THAT NEXT PHASE OF THEIR LIVES ARE, WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT IF SOME OF THEM WENT INTO THIS VERY LINE OF WORK, THE SAME ONE I'M IN.

I WAS IN THE UNITED STATES NAVY, I DID GO TO GUANTANAMO BAY, I WAS A SECURITY GUARD THERE.

I WAS A UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS FROM 1981 TO 1985.

THE MARINE CORPS SILENT DRILL TEAM, WE TRAVELED ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

I LEARNED ABOUT THE WEST L.A. VA THROUGH ANOTHER VETERAN WHO WAS HOMELESS AND I WAS STRUGGLING WITH A DRUG ADDICTION AT THE TIME.

THE LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH IS SPONSORING A BIG PIECE OF THE VETERANS IN OUR PROGRAM AND THEY ARE UNDERWRITING THIS SPECIAL CLASS THAT WE ARE GOING TO BE GIVING VETERANS, CAME OUT OF ALL OF THE CONVERSATIONS WITH WAS THAT THE VETERANS FELT THAT WHAT THEY WANTED MOST OF ALL WAS A JOB, A JOB THAT HAD MEANING, A JOB THAT WAS ASSOCIATED WITH A MISSION, A JOB THAT WOULD HELP THEM HAVE A SENSE OF IDENTITY AND A SENSE OF PURPOSE.

SO THEN THERE IS YOUR ANSWER AND FOR MORE INSIGHT, BOTH TOM HANKS AND BEN DONNENBERG THE VISIONARY BEHIND THIS JOB AND REHABILITATION PROGRAM JOIN US NOW.

GENTLEMEN, IT'S A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU HERE WITH US, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANKS, JACK.

THANK YOU.

TOM, WITH ALL THE THINGS THAT YOU DO IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE WHAT DREW YOU FIRST TO THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER AND THEN TO THE WORK THAT THEY WERE DOING WITH THE VETERANS?

WELL, I'M A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR AND THE BEST JOB AN ACTOR CAN HAVE IS TO BE IN AN ENSEMBLE DOING SOMETHING LIKE THE GREATEST WORK OF ALL LITERATURE AND ALL OF STAGE.

THE OTHER THING THAT IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE IS THAT MY LIFE CHANGED THE FIRST TIME I EVER WAS IN A PLAY, IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO, AND THE SAME CAN OCCUR FOR ANYBODY WHO HAS A CHANCE TO BE EXPOSED TO IT.

YOU KNOW, AN AWFUL LOT OF THE VETERANS ARE LOOKING FOR, LET'S PUT IT UNDER A BIGGER SUBHEAD OF WHATEVER THE NEXT CHAPTER IS IN THEIR LIVES, AND EXPOSURE TO ALMOST ANYTHING THAT ATTRACTS THEIR PASSION CAN LEAD THEM ON TO THE LIFE AFTER SERVING OUR COUNTRY, THE LIFE AFTER BEING IN THE ARMED FORCES.

FOR US TO BE ABLE TO UTILIZE SPACE LIKE WE HAD AT THE VETERANS CENTER, WHICH WAS OUTDOOR.

HOW MANY PLAYS DID WE DO OUTDOOR AT THE VA.

SIX.

OKAY, SIX, IT'S OUTDOORS AND THAT IS LITERALLY FROM THE GROUND UP BUILDING A THEATER FROM THE GROUND UP, EVERYTHING FROM THE SEATS TO THE STAGE TO THE LIGHTING TO THE PICNIC TABLES IN ORDER TO GREET PEOPLE AS THEY ARRIVE, BUT ALSO THEN THE BUILDING OF THE SHOW ITSELF.

WHEN WE WERE ABLE TO INCORPORATE MEN AND WOMEN WHO WERE INTERESTED IN IT AND THEN WATCH THEIR PASSION DEVELOP RIGHT BEFORE OUR VERY EYES, AND THEN ACTUALLY GO ON AND BECOME PAID EMPLOYEES OF THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER, WELL, LOOK, THAT'S NOT JUST A HAPPY MEDIUM, THAT'S ACTUALLY THE HIGH COUNTRY IN WHICH YOU ACTUALLY ARE INTRODUCING PEOPLE TO THE NEXT -- THE NEXT GROUP OF FOLKS THAT THEY WILL WORK WITH PERHAPS AND MAKE A CAREER OUT OF IT, BUT ALSO THAT FABULOUS NEXT CHAPTER OF THEIR LIVES THAT STARTS FROM THEIR FIRST EXPOSURE TO SOMETHING LIKE BEING IN A PLAY WITH AN ENSEMBLE OF PEOPLE, THE MAGIC OFTEN HAPPENS AT NIGHT AND YOU ARE EVERYTHING YOU DO IN THE COURSE OF SHOWING UP TO WORK HELPS AID THAT PRODUCTION FROM GETTING DONE.

IF YOU JUST WANT TO BE FROM AN ALTRUISTIC PERSPECTIVE OF WHAT CAN WE DO IN ORDER TO JUST BE THERE FOR THE VETERANS WHEN THEY COME HOME TO SAY MORE THAN JUST THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, BUT THEN INVITING THEM INTO A BRAND-NEW DIFFERENT KIND OF DIFFERENT SERVICE, WHEN YOU CAN DO THAT AND HAVE IT BE AS ORGANIC AS IT HAS BEEN FOR THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER AND THE VETERANS, WELL, THEN YOU'RE -- IT'S ALMOST SELFISH TO THINK THAT, HEY, WE WERE ABLE TO DO WHAT WE WANTED TO DO AND AT THE SAME TIME INTRODUCE PEOPLE TO A WHOLE NEW WAY OF LIVING.

TELL ME QUICKLY ABOUT THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER AND THEN HOW YOU DECIDED LET'S GET INVOLVED IN THESE PROGRAMS THAT CAN HELP BRING OUR VETERANS TO A PLACE WHERE THEY CAN GAIN KNOWLEDGE ABOUT SKILLS TO GET THEM BACK INTO THE REAL WORLD.

I HAD BEEN APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES AND UNANIMOUSLY CONFIRMED BY THE SENATE TO SERVE ON THE NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS WHICH OVERSEES THE REALLY IMPORTANT WORK THAT THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT DOES, AS WE CREATED AN AMAZING PROGRAM CALLED OPERATION HOMECOMING WHERE WE ASKED VETS WITH THE COOPERATION OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF TO BEGIN WRITING ABOUT THEIR STORIES ABOUT COMING HOME.

ONE OF THE KIND OF RECURRING THEMES IN MANY OF THE STORIES WAS THE DIFFICULTY VETS HAD IN SECURING EMPLOYMENT.

AND THEN ALL KINDS OF STUDIES STARTED COMING OUT THAT SAID GETTING JOBS FOR VETERANS WAS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR IN HELPING THEM MAKE A TRANSITION TO SUCCESSFUL MAINSTREAM CIVILIAN LIFE.

I TRIED TO FIGURE OUT A WAY TO CREATE A JOB PROGRAM THAT WOULD SUPPORT THE VETERANS' TRANSITIONS, AND WENT BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD AND LOOKED AT ALL THE DIFFERENT OPPORTUNITIES WE HAD AS WE BUILD A SHAKESPEARE PLAY THAT COULD BE APPLICABLE TO A VETERAN'S SKILL SET.

I DIDN'T REALLY KNOW HOW WELL IT WOULD WORK OUT, SO THE FIRST YEAR I HIRED PROFESSIONAL THEATER PEOPLE TO BACK UP THE VETS AND THEN I NEVER NEEDED ANY OF THEM, THEY KIND OF CAME IN, TOOK OVER AND RAN THE SHOW FROM START TO FINISH.

TOM, LET ME ASK YOU, YOU TALKED BEFORE ABOUT AN ACTOR, IS THERE ANYTHING BETTER AN SHAKESPEARE, OF COURSE, EVERYBODY WANTS TO DO THAT.

HERE YOU HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY, YOU TALKED ABOUT HENRY IV.

IN ADDITION TO PLAYING FALLSTAFF A LOT OF HISTORIANS SAY HE IS PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST FASCINATING OF SHAKESPEARE'S CHARACTERS AND PLUS YOU GET TO WEAR A FAT SUIT WHICH IS COOL FOR THE AUDIENCE, HERE IS TOM HANKS IN A FAT SUIT.

I GET TO LOSE 180 POUNDS A NIGHT.

YOU NEED TO DO A NEW BOOK, THE TOM HANKS DIET, LOSE 180 POUNDS IN ONE NIGHT.

MY QUESTION IS WE KNOW WHAT THEY GET OUT OF IT.

WHAT DO YOU GET OUT OF IT?

I GET THE SAME EXACT CORE EXPERIENCE THAT THE THEATER PROMISES IN THE FIRST PLACE.

PARTICIPATION IN SOMETHING THAT IS GREATER THAN YOURSELF.

YOU CAN ONLY CONTROL WHAT YOUR OWN ACTIONS ARE.

YOU CAN ONLY LEARN YOUR OWN LINES, YOU CAN ONLY PUT FORWARD THE PERFORMANCE THAT IS INSIDE YOUR OWN HEAD AND YOU MUST RELY ON EVERYBODY ELSE WHO IS IN THE EN SEMABLE ON STAGE WITH YOU AND IS BACK STAGE.

LISTEN, WHEN WE WERE OUT ON THAT STAGE OUR PROFESSIONAL LIVES WERE IN SOMEBODY ELSE'S HANDS BECAUSE IF OUR RADIO MICS GO OUT AND THAT WAS ALL A VETERAN CREW THAT WAS PUTTING TOGETHER OUR SOUND SYSTEM, IF THE CUES DON'T COME TO US BACK STAGE, IF THE PROPS ARE NOT IN THE PLACE, IF OUR WIGS ARE OUT OF PLACE AND WE HAD VETERANS WHO WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL OF THOSE DIFFERENT DEPARTMENTS OF IT, THAT IS -- THAT'S THE REASON THAT THE GREAT SECRET IS THAT SOME OF US WILL DO THIS FOR FREE, SOME OF US --

AGENTS DON'T WANT TO HEAR YOU SAY THAT.

THEY DON'T NEED TO HEAR THAT AT ALL.

BUT THE RIPPLE EFFECT OF BEING IN A PRODUCTION THAT IS GOING TO RUN FROM -- WHAT WAS OUR --

THE FIRST --

A MONTH.

FROM THE 1st OF JUNE TO THE 1st OF JULY IS ALMOST -- IT'S NOT UNLIKE THE CAMARADERIE AND THE SKILLS AND THE EXPERTISE AND THE LEADERSHIP THAT IS NECESSARY FOR WHAT THEY DID IN THE SERVICES AS IT IS.

WHEN WE SET UP OUR CREWS WE CALLED THEM SQUADRONS AND WE HAD PLATOON LEADERS AND WE USED A LOT OF MILITARY JARGON TO HELP THE VETS FEEL COMFORTABLE AND UNDERSTAND THEIR IDENTITY AND THEIR MISSION AND THE MEANING OF THEIR JOB AND THE PURPOSE OF WHAT THEY WERE DOING.

THEY ALL RELATED TO THAT KIND OF LANGUAGE, SO IT WAS FUN TO HAVE THAT.

AND WE HAD AN AWARD WINNING -- TONY AWARD WINNING SET DESIGNER WHO SAID, I HAVE NEVER HAD THE ARMY BUILD MY SET.

IT WAS THAT KIND OF STUFF.

AND WHEN THE ARMY PUTS TOGETHER THAT SPEED RAIL IN ORDER FOR THE PEOPLE TO SIT DOWN, YOU KNOW THOSE GRAND STANDS AREN'T MOVING.

WE HAD MOMENTS WHERE WE WERE ALL GETTING TOGETHER FOR ONE REASON OR ANOTHER, EVERYBODY INVOLVED IN THE PRODUCTION, AND I THINK EVEN THE ACTORS, THE CAST THEMSELVES, WERE ASTOUNDED AT HOW BIG THAT PHOTOGRAPH ACTUALLY WAS.

HOW MANY PEOPLE CAME OUT OF THE WOODWORK THAT WERE WORKING DEEPER DOWN IN THE OTHER FOLDS OF THE PRODUCTION THAT WE WERE NOT EVEN AWARE THAT THEY WERE THERE.

THERE WERE AN AWFUL LOT.

WE HAD A COMPANY PHOTO OF 90 PEOPLE.

90 PEOPLE.

AND ONLY I'M GOING TO SAY 23 OF THOSE WERE ACTORS.

THAT'S RIGHT.

EVERYBODY ELSE WAS ON THE CREW AND THE VAST MAJORITY OF THAT WERE VETERANS, SOME OF WHICH WERE NOT WORKING ON THEIR FIRST SHOW AND THAT'S ANOTHER THING THAT'S IMPORTANT.

RIGHT.

YEAH.

SOME OF THEM HAD WORKED WITH US BEFORE IN YEARS PAST, DURING THE PRODUCTIONS.

BEN, WHEN I WATCHED SOME OF THE VIDEOS OF THIS, AND YOU BOTH MENTIONED HOW YOU TRANSFORM A GARDEN AT THE VA CENTER INTO A SETTING FOR A SHAKESPEARIAN PLAY, I LOOKED AT A LOT OF WHAT YOU DID WITH HENRY IV, AND IT'S MAGICAL WHAT YOU TURN THAT GARDEN INTO.

AND IN TERMS OF WHAT THE WORKERS ARE DOING, AGAIN, LOOKING AT IT MY FIRST THOUGHT WAS THIS ISN'T VETERANS WHO ARE WORKING AT THEATER, THEY BECAME THEATER PEOPLE AND WHO HAD SKILLS.

THAT'S RIGHT.

SO YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO PUT THE QUOTATION VETERANS IN FRONT OF WHO THEY WERE AND WHAT THEY WERE DOING.

TELL ME ABOUT THE AFTERMATH OF THIS PROGRAM.

WHAT HAVE THEY BEEN ABLE TO GO ON TO DO AFTER ONE OF THESE PRODUCTIONS WRAPS?

IN MY COMPANY IN THE FALL EVERY YEAR WE DO A SPECIAL PRODUCTION FOR STUDENTS, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, TO INTRODUCE THEM TO SHAKESPEARE AND WE CREATE AN IMMERSIVE HAUNTED HOUSE AND WE WORK WITH A GUY WHO WORKED FOR DISNEYLAND CREATING THE HAUNTED MANSION AND STUFF LIKE THAT.

WE KEPT SEVEN OF THOSE GUYS ON WHO SPECIALIZED FOR US IN LIGHTING AND SOUND AND PAINTING AND CONSTRUCTION.

OTHER GUYS WHO WORKED FOR US THAT WE DIDN'T HOLD ON TO WENT TO WORK AT OTHER THEATERS AS USHERS, A COUPLE OF THEM WENT ON TO UNIVERSAL STUDIOS, ONE OF THEM IS A SOUND ENGINEER NOW.

WE PARTICULARLY FOCUS ON VETS WHO ARE SERVICE-CONNECTED AND PART OF THE VOCATIONAL REHAB PROGRAM AT THE VA.

SO THEY ARE REFERRED TO US BY THEIR CLINICIANS WHO ARE WORKING WITH THEM BECAUSE IT'S BEEN DETERMINED THAT GETTING A COMPETITIVE EMPLOYMENT ENVIRONMENT FOR THEM AT THIS POINT IN THEIR LIVES WILL BE A KEY TRANSITIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR THEM.

SO WE HIRE GUYS AND WOMEN WHO MOSTLY HAVE BEEN OUT OF WORK FOR LIKE FOUR OR FIVE YEARS AND THEY BEGIN TO SEE THEMSELVES DIFFERENTLY.

THERE IS A TRANSFORMATION IN THEIR SELF-PERCEPTIONS AND THEY BEGIN TO REALIZE THAT THE SKILL SETS THEY BUILT WORKING FOR THE ARMED FORCES CAN APPLY IN OTHER WORK ENVIRONMENTS.

AND SO THEY BUILD THIS CONFIDENCE IN THEMSELVES TO GET THEMSELVES UP AND OUT.

SO OTHER VETS GO TO WORK IN OTHER VENUES AND IN DIFFERENT TYPES OF JOBS THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH PERFORMING ARTS, BUT THEY GET THEIR TEETH FIXED, THEY START GETTING SPEECH COACHING, THEY START DRESSING DIFFERENTLY, THEY START GOING OUT ON JOB INTERVIEWS AND, YOU KNOW, THERE IS A WHOLE NUMBER OF VETERANS THAT ARE A PART OF AN ORGANIZATION CALLED NEW DIRECTIONS AT THE VA WHO ARE CONVICTED FELONS AND HAVE TO BE THERE.

THEY ARE COURT MANDATED TO BE THERE BECAUSE THEY HAVE DRUG PROBLEMS AND ALL KINDS OF DIFFERENT ISSUES.

THOSE GUYS JUMPED IN AND THEY WERE -- THEY WERE THRILLED TO BE A PART OF THIS AND IT REALLY TURNED A BUNCH OF THEM AROUND.

WE HAD A MOMENT BACK STAGE AND IT HAPPENED EVERY SINGLE NIGHT BECAUSE MYSELF AND A FEW OTHER CAST MEMBERS WERE WAITING TO MAKE OUR ENTRANCE AND WE HAD -- WE HAD LIKE THREE MINUTES IN WHICH WE HAD DOWN TIME AND ONE OF THE GUYS WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE TO MAKE SURE ALL THE PROPS WERE IN THE RIGHT PLACE, HE AND I WOULD SIT BACK TOGETHER AND EVERY NIGHT WE WOULD TALK ABOUT HOW THE SHOW WAS GOING, HOW THE AUDIENCE WAS REACTING, HOW FULL THE MOON WAS THAT NIGHT OR HOW COLD IT MIGHT BE GETTING, AND I CAN'T TELL YOU HOW OFTEN HE SAID, BOY, I'M REALLY GLAD I DID THIS.

I CAN'T BELIEVE I'M INVOLVED IN SOMETHING THAT IS -- THAT IS AS MUCH FUN AND WAS AS INVOLVING TO HIM AS BEING IN THIS PLAY WAS, AND ALL I COULD SAY TO HIM WAS THAT, MY FRIEND, I FEEL THE EXACT SAME WAY.

IT GOES BACK TO WHAT YOU SAID, TOM, BEFORE, THE VALUE OF THE ARTS, WHAT THEY CAN BRING TO OUR LIVES, THE OPPORTUNITIES AND EXPERIENCES.

BOTH OF YOU CLEARLY ARE INVOLVED IN THIS BECAUSE YOU BELIEVE IT'S THE RIGHT THING, THERE'S VALUE TO WHAT YOU'RE DOING, BUT I ALSO WANTED TO ASK YOU BOTH, BECAUSE WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS BEFORE WE GOT ON THE AIR, AND I MENTIONED TO YOU MY FATHER-IN-LAW HAD LANDED THE THIRD WAVE, OMAHA BEACH ON D-DAY, WAS SERIOUSLY INJURED A FEW DAYS IN.

YOU BOTH MENTIONED TO ME BOTH OF YOUR FATHERS WERE INVOLVED IN WORLD WAR II.

TOM, IT HE WILL ME YOUR STORY FIRST.

WELL, MY DAD WAS -- LET'S SEE, HE WAS BORN IN '24 SO 1941 COMES ALONG AND DO THE MATH FOR ME --

17.

HE JOINED AS SOON AS HE TURNED 18.

I ACTUALLY HAVE HIS -- I ACTUALLY HAVE HIS PHOTOGRAPH FROM WHEN HE ENLISTED.

LOOK, HE HATED THE NAVY.

HE HATED EVERY MINUTE OF BEING IN THE NAVY.

ALL I KNEW THAT HE WAS THERE, BUT HE WENT FROM A SMALL TOWN IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA, WHICH WILL LOWS, THE SON OF A FARMER AND NEXT THING HE KNOWS HE'S BEING TAUGHT HYDRAULICS ON THE NAVY'S DIME AND THEN HE'S OFF SOMEWHERE OUT OF TREASURE ISLAND TO HAWAII AND FROM HAWAII TO SOME OTHER GOD FORSAKEN PLACE.

THE EXPOSURE THAT HE HAD TO THE WORLD WAS BROUGHT ABOUT BECAUSE THE ENTIRE COUNTRY WAS INVOLVED IN THIS THING CALLED THE WAR THAT PUT THE ENTIRE WORLD AND THE LIVES OF OUR PARENTS IN COMPLETE TOTAL STASIS.

THE FACT THAT THEY WERE PART OF AN ENTIRE SOCIETY THAT HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING TO BE IN THE FUTURE.

HOW LONG WAS THAT WAR GOING TO LAST?

'46, '47, '48.

NOBODY HAD ANY IDEA IN 1941 AND 1942 AND 1943.

THE FACT THAT MY DAD, BEN'S DAD, YOUR DAD, WERE JUST PART OF HOW MANY MILLIONS OF AMERICANS WHO UNQUESTIONABLY SIGNED UP FOR WHAT TURNED OUT TO BE THE DURATION PLUS SIX MONTHS, THAT IS A SELFLESSNESS, AS WELL AS A SENSE OF NATIONAL WILL AND RESPONSIBILITY AND DUTY THAT WE -- THERE'S BEEN NO WAR LIKE IT SINCE AND THERE IS NO SENSE OF COMMUNAL SERVICE THAT'S BEEN THE SAME WAY OUTSIDE OF YOUR OWN INDIVIDUAL -- INDIVIDUAL FEELINGS ARE.

BEN --

I THINK THAT'S AN EXTRAORDINARY -- THAT'S AN EXTRAORDINARY COMMON POINT OF EXPERIENCE THAT LITERALLY THAT IS THE LAST GENERATION THAT HAD IT, NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE, NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVED.

AND, BEN, YOUR DAD'S STORY?

MY DAD GREW UP IN AN ORPHANAGE AND WHEN HE BECAME OLD ENOUGH HE SIGNED UP FOR WORLD WAR II AND THEY TOOK HIM OVERSEAS TO GERMANY AND THEY TRAINED HIM TO DRIVE TANKS IN GERMANY AND AT SOME POINT -- HE NEVER WOULD TALK ABOUT IT EVER.

HE DROVE A TANK AND AT SOME POINT IN THE WAR MY MOM TOLD ME AN ENEMY OPENED THE TOP OF THE TANK AND DROPPED A HAND GRENADE IN AND THE GUY, HIS TANK MATE, JUMPED ON TOP OF IT AND THE HAND GRENADE EXPLODED AND MY DAD LIVED AND THE GUY IN THE TANK WITH HIM DIDN'T.

YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT THAT NOTION OF SELFLESSNESS, THAT'S WHAT WE SAW FOR ALL OF THEM.

LET ME COME BACK TO ONE OTHER THING.

THIS NOTION OF WORLD WAR II, IT'S BEEN DESCRIBED AS THE LAST GOOD WAR.

NOT GOOD IN THE SENSE THAT PEOPLE DIED, CLEARLY THAT'S NEVER GOOD, BUT GOOD IN THE SENSE THAT THERE WAS A CLEARLY DELINEATED ENEMY, CLEARLY DELINEATED STAKES, CONSEQUENCES THAT WERE BEING FOUGHT FOR.

AND ALL OF THE PEOPLE IN THE MILITARY WHO SERVED IN WORLD WAR II, CAME HOME, THEY WERE EMBRACED FOR THE MOST PART, ABLE TO PICK UP THEIR LIVES AND MOVE FORWARD.

FAST FORWARD TO THE VIETNAM WAR, WITH HE REJECTED SO MANY OF THOSE VETERANS OF THE VIETNAM WAR BECAUSE WE WERE ANGRY AT WHY WE WERE THERE AND THE DISSENSION THAT IT CREATED IN THIS COUNTRY.

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

TOM, YOU FIRST.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS?

WHY DO YOU THINK WE'VE GOTTEN TO THE FIRST PART, HONOR AND RESPECT, BUT WE HAVEN'T DONE ENOUGH FOR THE SECOND PART?

THERE IS NO THREE-ACT STRUCTURE TO EVERYTHING THAT HAS BEEN GOING ON SINCE WORLD WAR II.

THERE IS DIFFUSION, THERE IS A SENSE OF WE'RE FIGHTING IDEAS AS OPPOSED TO A FORM OF GOVERNMENT, YOU KNOW, THE WARS THAT WE -- WE TRY TO -- WE TRY TO PLACE UPON LITERALLY WHAT'S GOING ON IN AFGHANISTAN AND AS WELL AS IN IRAQ AND THROUGHOUT ALL THE TROUBLE SPOTS SOME SENSE OF GEOGRAPHY THAT MAKES SENSE, SOME SENSE OF A BEGINNING AND A MIDDLE AND AN END TO WHAT THE STORY IS AND HUMAN NATURE AT THIS JUNCTURE DOES NOT SUPPORT THAT -- THOSE -- THOSE COMMON BORDERS AND SENSIBILITIES.

SO I THINK WHAT ARE WE LEFT IN ORDER TO TRULY GRASP?

AND THAT IS THE ACT OF SERVICE THAT THE VETERANS THEMSELVES ARE WILLING -- WHICH AN ALL VOLUNTEER ARMY, IT'S AN ALL VOLUNTEER ARMED FORCES, SO WE VIEW THEM AS PROFESSIONALS WHO ARE STILL GOING OFF AND DOING AS THEIR COUNTRY ASKS OF THEM.

THAT IS ADMIRABLE.

THAT IS SOMETHING THAT IS, I THINK, PART OF OUR COLLECTIVE AMERICAN DNA, BUT WHAT GOES ALONG WITH THAT, I THINK THAT'S UNFORTUNATE, IS A LACK OF THAT TRULY UNDERSTANDING OF DIVISIONS AND OF TIME.

WILL THERE EVER BE A MOMENT WHERE A SURRENDER IS SIGNED OR IT'S ALL UNDERSTOOD ON ALL PARTIES THAT AN ARMISTICE OR A SOUTHEAST FIRE WILL GO ON?

NO, IT'S NOT.

AND I THINK THAT'S VERY DIFFICULT.

THE SENSIBILITY OF WRAPPING IT ALL UP SOMEHOW IN WHAT IS I THINK A GENUINE FEELING OF THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE AND WELCOME HOME, IS ONLY, I THINK, THE FIRST 12 LETTERS OF AN ALPHABET THAT HAS TO GO TO ALL 26 IN WHICH AFTER THAT COMES ALONG WITH DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THE HUMAN PSYCHE AND THE HUMAN BODY AS WELL AS JUST REGULAR HUMAN NATURE GOES THROUGH WHEN THEY ARE A PROFESSIONAL SOLDIER AND HAVE GONE THROUGH TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, SIX TOURS OF DUTY WHERE THOSE LAWS OF BEHAVIOR AS WE UNDERSTOOD THEM IN WORLD WAR II SIMPLY DO NOT APPLY.

WE ARE IN A NEW TERRITORY HERE.

WE ARE IN A NEW FORM OF WELCOMING HOME -- BRINGING HOME AND CONGRATULATING AND CELEBRATING AND BRINGING AN END TO THE SERVICE OF ALL THESE VETERANS AND IT NEEDS SOMETHING MORE.

IT NEEDS A BIGGER COMMITMENT AND FROM THOSE OF US WHO HAVE NOT SERVED AND THAT COMMITMENT IS STILL BEING DEFINED.

IT'S AN ALLUSIVE GOAL, BUT YOU CAN ONLY WIN THEM ON THE SMALLEST TINIEST OF CIRCUMSTANCES AND I THINK, LIKE WHAT BEN HAS BEEN ABLE TO START WITH HERE, YOU MIGHT ONLY BE ABLE TO SOLVE -- NOT SOLVE.

YOU MIGHT ONLY BE ABLE TO ADDRESS THE REALITY FIVE, SIX, OR SEVEN VETERANS AT A TIME AND YOU THINK, WELL, WHAT IS THAT?

THAT'S JUST A DROP IN THE OCEAN.

WELL, WHAT IS AN OCEAN BUT A MULTITUDE OF DROPS.

DO YOU THAT ENOUGH AND YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE REAL DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES AND IN THE FUTURES OF THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE COME HOME FROM VERY CONFUSING PLACES LIKE IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN AND SYRIA AND WHO KNOWS WHAT ELSE IS GOING TO BE COMING DOWN THE PIKE.

BEN, I SAW YOU QUOTED AS SAYING THAT THIS IS AN ILLUSTRATION OF GREAT ART HAVING THE CAPACITY TO DO GREAT THINGS.

DO YOU GET A SENSE -- AND LET'S TALK ABOUT YOUR INDUSTRY OUT THERE -- DO YOU GET A SENSE THAT THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE OUT THERE THAT ARE LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDER, MAYBE STARTING TO PAY ATTENTION TO THIS AND SAYING, ALL RIGHT, WE DO A LOT OF GREAT ART IN THE ENTERTAINMENT WORLD AND SO LET'S FIGURE OUT WAYS FOR US, THEN, TO COUPLE TO THAT GREAT ART SOME MORE GREAT THINGS.

ARE YOU SEEING THAT?

WELL, THIS HAS BEEN A FOCUS OF MY COMPANIES FOR 32 YEARS.

THERE IS -- THERE IS A CORE OF PEOPLE WHO BELIEVE THAT ART HAS VALUE FOR ART SAKE AND I UNDERSTAND THAT AND I SUPPORT THAT, BUT I ALSO THINK THAT WE CAN DO ART FOR A GREATER PURPOSE.

SO THAT'S BEEN MY LIFE'S FOCUS, OUR COMPANY HAS ALWAYS BEEN PUTTING ON REALLY WONDERFUL ARTISTIC EXPRESSION THAT HAS BEEN COUPLED WITH A DRIVING SOCIAL MISSION AND WHETHER IT'S, YOU KNOW, INSTEAD OF CHARGING ADMISSION COLLECTING FOOD AND DISTRIBUTING THAT TO FAMILY FEEDING PROGRAMS OR WORKING WITH KIDS IN THE SUMMER WHO COME FROM POVERTY THRESHOLD FAMILIES AND ALL THAT KIND OF STUFF, YOU CAN DO GREAT ART THAT HAS A GREAT BIG IMPACT IN THE COMMUNITY.

AND YOU'RE ASKING ME DO PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IT NOW?

YEAH, BECAUSE TOM WAS A PART OF IT, IT RAISES THE PROFILE OF EVERYTHING THAT WE DO.

AND LAST SUMMER WHEN WE DID HENRY IV WE HAD FOLKS FROM YOUR NEW YORK SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL COMING OUT TO SEE WHAT WE ARE DOING.

WE HAD PEOPLE FROM YALE'S -- THE YALE REP COMING OUT FROM NEW ENGLAND.

WE HAD PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY STARTING TO PAY ATTENTION AND SAYING TO THEMSELVES NOW, HEY, DO YOU KNOW WHAT, WHY CAN'T THE VETERANS BE DOING THAT JOB?

AND THEN THEY ASK THEMSELVES, WELL, I DON'T KNOW WHAT'S INVOLVED WITH WORKING WITH VETERANS AND THEY GET A LITTLE FRIGHTENED.

THERE'S NOTHING TO BE FRIGHTENED OF.

I KNOW NEITHER OF YOU ARE IN THIS TO HAVE PEOPLE THANKING YOU FOR IT.

I KNOW YOU ARE IN IT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO THANK AND OFFER RESPECT AND ASSISTANCE TO THESE VETERANS FOR WHAT THEY'VE DONE, THEIR SERVICE TO THE COUNTRY.

BUT DESPITE THAT, I WANT TO TELL YOU THAT WE ARE BOTH GRATEFUL TO YOU, WE ARE ALL GRATEFUL TO BOTH OF YOU FOR WHAT YOU'VE BEEN DOING TO ASSIST IN ALL OF THIS.

I WANT TO THANK YOU SO MUCH, TOM AND BEN, FOR SPENDING SOME TIME.

IT WAS AN INTERESTING CONVERSATION.

WE COULD HAVE GONE ON FOR HOURS, MAYBE WE WILL CONTINUE IT SOMETIME DOWN THE ROAD.

THANKS.

THANKS, JACK.

YOU BOTH BE WELL.

TAKE CARE NOW.

YOU, TOO.

AND A REMINDER FOR YOU, FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE SHAKESPEARE CENTER OF LOS ANGELES, THE CHAPTER 31 VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION PROGRAM THROUGH THE VA AND THE LATEST MOVIES INVOLVING TOM HANKS, MAKE SURE YOU VISIT US AT METROFOCUS.ORG.

♪ ♪

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSLYN P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG AND BY -- ♪ ♪

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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