Tom Hanks and the Macedonian Call

number4How many cars would you have to take away from California’s crowded roadway to rid them of gridlock? A computer simulation supplied the answer: four percent, or four out of a hundred. The study provided inspiration for actor Tom Hanks’ graduation address entitled “The Power of Four,” given at Vassar College’s graduation ceremony on May 22, 2005.

His observation:

Now, if this simulation is correct, it is the most dramatic definition in earthly science and human nature of how a simple choice will make a jaw-dropping difference to our world. Call it the Power of Four. One commuter in your neighborhood could put the rush back into rush hour. So, if merely four people out of a hundred can make gridlock go away by choosing not to use their car, imagine the other changes that can be wrought just by four of us–four of you–out of a hundred.

Take a hundred musicians in a depressed port city in Northern England, choose John, Paul, George, and Ringo and you have “Hey Jude”. Take a hundred computer geeks in Redmond, Washington, send 96 of them home and the remainder is called Microsoft.

Take the Power of Four and apply it to any and every area of your concern. Politics: Four votes swung from one hundred into another hundred is the difference between gaining control and losing clout. Culture: 2 ticket buyers out of fifty can make a small, odd film profitable. Economics: by boycotting a product 1 consumer out of 25 can move that product to the back of the shelf, and eventually off it altogether.

Four out of 100 is miniscule and yet can be the great lever of the Tipping Point. The Power of Four is the difference between helplessness and help. H-E-L-P: a four-letter word like some others with many meanings.

Of course, this has significance for Christians as well.  What would be the effect if even four folks in your church decided to share the gospel with just one person a day…or week?  What if a mere 4 teens in your youth group made a pact to meet together for a Bible study?  What if four men in your church met faithfully each week to pray for their pastor?  This is the “for want of a nail” thing all over.  There is bigness in smallness.

Hanks continues,

You need to hear the most important message thus far in the third millennium. You need to hear a maxim so simple, so clear and evocative that no one could misconstrue its meaning or miss its weighty issue.

So, here goes. It’s not a statement, but a request. Not a bit of advice, but a plea. It is, in fact, a single four-letter word, a verb and a noun which takes into account the reality of your four years at Vassar as well as the demands of the next four decades you spend beyond this campus.

It’s a message, once made familiar by the Beatles–those Northern English lads who embodied The Power of Four.


We need help. Your help. You must help. Please help. Please provide Help. Please be willing to help. Help… and you will make a huge impact in the life of the street, the town, the country, and our planet. If only one out of four of each one hundred of you choose to help on any given day, in any given cause– incredible things will happen in the world you live in.

In his closing statement, he clarifies that the “help” he has in mind is the environmental sort, the tolerance sort, the plant a tree sort, the diversity sort.  We have a much larger scope than this.  It is the “Macedonian call” kind of help.  We can offer the kind of help that can overcome the world, and every effect it has upon us…because we have omnipotence to back us.  We have power, even at our weakest point.

That’s the “Power of Four”–you, being yielded to the triune God.


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