Inside Barack And Michelle Obama's Friendship With Tom Hanks

During Barack Obama's presidency, he and Michelle Obama had numerous opportunities to meet and forge friendships with celebrities. As pop culture enthusiasts, the Obamas appeared on TV shows and partnered with major Hollywood stars to discuss various issues and initiatives. "I'm a consumer of pop culture, and I know what resonates with people," Michelle told Variety in 2016.

Tom Hanks' connection to Barack goes back to at least 2007 when the iconic actor purchased a ticket to a fundraising dinner for the then-senator's first presidential campaign.  A year later, Hanks released a MySpace.com video urging viewers to vote for Barack. While this video begins tongue-in-cheek with a title screen warning of "Beware: Celebrity Endorsement," Hanks quickly shifts to a serious message praising Barack's character and comparing him to past presidents like FDR. When Barack sought re-election in 2012, Hanks narrated a short documentary touting the then-president's work with the automotive industry. 

Besides lending his professional talents, Hanks also got to know the Obamas more personally by attending White House celebrations including Barack's 50th birthday party in 2011.  Five years later, Barack demonstrated his esteem for Hanks when he gave him the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom. In addition to his acting achievements, Hanks was honored for his work in social and environmental justice, and for supporting veterans.  The Obamas' connection to Hanks wasn't limited to their time in the White House. Hanks, along with his wife, Rita Wilson, continue to enjoy a friendship with Barack and Michelle.

The Obamas have vacationed with Hanks

In 2017, Barack and Michelle Obama took a trip to French Polynesia as guests on David Geffen's luxurious yacht. Other high-profile guests on the excursion included Tom Hanks, Oprah Winfrey, and Bruce Springsteen.  "It was off the scale fantastic," Hanks informed Stephen Colbert afterward. However, the actor also noted that conversations with Obama can sometimes be tricky. As a former president, there are some topics Obama's not allowed to discuss. "He said, 'You know, I'd like to share that with you, but it's classified,'" Hanks recalled on "The Late Show."

In 2023, the Obamas enjoyed vacation time with Hanks and Rita Wilson in Greece. The two couples, along with Barack and Michelle's daughters Malia and Sasha Obama, had dinner near the water. In addition to relaxing with friends, Barack was in the country for professional reasons, hosting an Obama Foundation leadership event in Athens. Greece has special significance for Hanks and Wilson. They have frequently traveled there, and Wilson has Greek ancestry. In 2020, Hanks, Wilson, and their two children were granted Greek citizenship in gratitude for their efforts to help people impacted by a 2018 wildfire near Athens. 

A few months after their trip to Greece, Michelle vacationed with Hanks and his wife near Italy as guests aboard Steven Spielberg's opulent yacht. Along with Kate Capshaw, Spielberg's wife, the group also went snorkeling together. 

Hanks and the Obamas have continued to celebrate milestone personal events

After being invited to the White House, Tom Hanks returned the favor and invited Barack Obama to a party at his home. In 2018, Obama was a guest at Hanks and Rita Wilson's California mansion when the couple celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary.  In 2021, Barack and Michelle Obama were invited to Hanks' home for a dinner party with festivities that extended past midnight. The other couples at the party included Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, as well as Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa. Like the Obama's friendship with Hanks, his bond with Springsteen has roots in his first presidential campaign. 

Also in 2021, Hanks visited the Obamas at their Martha's Vineyard home to celebrate Barack's 60th birthday. As evidence of his close connection with the former president, Hanks made the guest list even after Barack's party plans were significantly reduced. Some invites were rescinded as a result of health concerns concurrent with a wave of COVID-19 cases. 

Besides private soirees, Hanks has continued working with the Obamas to support democratic causes. In April 2020, Hanks and Wilson participated in Couch Party 2.0, Michelle's online event to promote mail-in voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was part of When We All Vote, an organization that Michelle created. Both Hanks and Wilson have served as co-chairs since the initiative began in 2018.