NBC's Lauer Cheers Tom Hanks Op-Ed Promoting Obama's 'Free' College Plan

Wrapping up an interview with actor Tom Hanks on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer took time to promote a January op-ed Hanks wrote for The New York Times praising "free" community college: "I read this op-ed you wrote recently....I love that. Why was it so important for you to get that message out there?"

Hanks replied: "I'm going to tell you right now that if I hadn't had two years of debt-free time in order to discover who I was and figure out what the world was about, I don't think I'd be here talking to you today. And I must say, a free opportunity to go to a very excellent place in order to learn about yourself and learn about the world."

In the Times article, Hanks described his time at Chabot community college in California "which, because it accepted everyone and was free, would be my alma mater." Concluding the piece, Hanks turned to advocacy, pushing President Obama's proposal to use taxpayer dollars to provide two "free" years of community college to students:

President Obama hopes to make two years of free community college accessible for up to nine million Americans. I'm guessing the new Congress will squawk at the $60 billion price tag, but I hope the idea sticks....High school graduates without the finances for a higher education can postpone taking on big loans and maybe luck into the class that will redefine their life's work. Many lives will be changed.

Hanks was on Today, along with NBC special correspondent Tom Brokaw, to talk about the pair receiving the American Spirit Award from the World War II Museum in New Orleans.

On the community college topic, Brokaw proclaimed: "I think they're a very important part of the future of this country, Matt, I really do." Lauer declared: "Much needed attention for a group of colleges that don't get enough attention. I completely agree."

Here is a transcript of the February 25 exchange:

8:22 AM ET

(...)

MATT LAUER: I read this op-ed you wrote recently.

TOM HANKS: About junior college? Yes, my time in junior college, yeah.

LAUER: I love that. Why was it so important for you to get that message out there?

HANKS: Oh, well I'm going to tell you right now that if I hadn't had two years of debt-free time in order to discover who I was and figure out what the world was about, I don't think I'd be here talking to you today. And I must say, a free opportunity to go to a very excellent place in order to learn about yourself and learn about the world.

TOM BROKAW: I think they're a very important part of the future of this country, Matt, I really do.  

LAUER: Much needed attention for a group of colleges that don't get enough attention. I completely agree.

HANKS: I think more people go to junior colleges than might even watch your TV show, Matt.

LAUER: Why would you say that?

HANKS: Well, just one last dig. I'm not going to pass off – I'm not going to pass that opportunity.

(...)

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