Last night, YouTube held a virtual commencement titled, Dear Class of 2020.
The multi-hour lifestream event was headlined by former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama.
It featured Taylor Swift, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé, Shonda Rhimes, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Rowland, Kevin Durant, Lady Gaga, Finneas, Bill and Melinda Gates, Alicia Keys, Zendaya and more.
The show opened with Lizzo playing the graduation song alongside The New York Philharmonic.
Alicia Keyes said:
“I know right now it might not feel like there’s a lot to celebrate and that’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay right now. I know so many people are not thinking about your time at school,” Keys said in her opening addressing the ongoing nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd on May 25.
Keys praised any students who have worked on “making sure your voices are heard” amid a time when “the world feels broken.” “There’s nothing and no one that can stop you from changing the world. I see you. You’re unstoppable,” the singer said.
The Obamas each delivered commencement speeches — as well as a joint message — to this year’s graduates.
“Today is the culmination of a long journey. Think back to where you were starting your first year… just as you were rounding the final turn the world turned a pandemic your way,” Barack said.
“As scary and uncertain as these times may be, they are also a wake-up call and they’re an incredible opportunity for your generation because you don’t have to accept what was considered normal before. You don’t have to accept the world as it is. You can make it into the world as it should be and could be. You can create a new normal, one that is fairer and gives everybody opportunity and treats everyone equally and builds bridges between people instead of dividing them.”
Michelle went on to celebrate students who have had to “reach even higher,” whether it be letting their siblings use the computer while still having to take finals or supporting their loved ones amid the ongoing pandemic. “That’s a lot to ask of anybody,” she said.
“You all have done something great. Hold your heads up high and celebrate.”
Lady Gaga began by saying she recorded a different commencement speech that “reflected the shared experience” with COVID-19 that the class of 2020 has had. After George Floyd was murdered, though, she realized that she had much more to say about the Black Lives Matter movement and protests.
She began, “My speech was recorded before the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent activist movement … while my original commencement speech may not be directly relevant to what this country most needs right now, I wish to tell you today that though there is much to be sad about, there is also much to be celebrated. You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this [country’s] evolution … change will happen and it will be for the better.”
Gaga went on to illustrate a metaphor of American society as a forest: one that was planted with racist seeds and grew discriminatory branches and leaves over the years. “This forest is where we live. It’s who we are. It’s the morals and value system that we as a society have upheld for centuries,” she said.
“But we are being invited to challenge that system,” Gaga continued. “I believe in my heart that the people who are going to make this change happen are listening to this speech right now. You are the seeds that will grow into a new and different forest that is far more beautiful [than the one we live in right now].”
One of the high points came when the cast of Schitt’s Creek appeared – in character – to celebrate the class of 2020 as well as teachers.
The group sang Mariah Carey’s “Hero,” and as the song ended, they were joined by the Grammy-winning singer herself.
“To all the teachers and professors, especially the ones who had to deal with students like me who never really showed up on school at time, you rose to the occasion and helped these students reach the finish line,” Carey said.
“To the students who had to deal with this bleak moment, congratulations on this historic accomplishment,” she added. “To all the teachers and students, you are so appreciated and I jus wanna say Class of 2020, you made it!”
(via Hollywood Reporter; Photos: Avalon)