Former President Barack Obama, Beyonce, and Lady Gaga were among the celebs to give powerful words of encouragement to graduating students during Sunday’s YouTube’s commencement ceremony, Dear Class of 2020.
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“It’s fair to say that your generation is graduating into a world that faces more profound challenges than any generation in decades,” Obama said during his commencement speech, in reference to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “No one can say for sure how much longer the crisis will last. A lot of that will depend on the choices we make as a country, but you know it will eventually end. Vaccines and treatments will emerge, the economy will begin to heal, and life will start returning to normal. And you’ll still have your whole life ahead of you.”
Obama then went on to address the current Black Lives Matter protests that have gripped the world in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
“The pandemic just brought into focus problems that have been growing for a very long time. Whether it’s widening economic inequality, the lack of basic health care for millions of people, the continuing scourge of bigotry and sexism, or the divisions and dysfunction that plague our political system. Similarly, the protests in response to the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and Nina Pop aren’t simply a reaction to those particular tragedies. As heartbreaking as they are, they speak to decades’ worth of anguish and frustration over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices in the broader criminal justice system.”
Lady Gaga also addressed the graduating class, revealing that her original speech had only focused on the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, which she had to re-record to include the current racial tensions currently gripping the nation.
“Two weeks ago, I recorded a very different graduation speech to help celebrate the wonderful accomplishment that is your graduation. My speech at that time reflected and referenced the shared experience of the COVID-19 global pandemic that has devastated the world this year, and how important it is to be a force of kindness in the world as you take the next step forward in your promising lives. My speech was recorded before the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent activist movement protesting police brutality and systemic racism in this country.”
Gaga continued on, “While my original commencement speech may not be directly relevant to what this country needs most right now, I wish to tell you today that although 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. You’re watching society change in a deeply important way.”
One of the most notable speeches of the evening was from Beyonce Knowles-Carter, who lent kind words of encouragement while applauding the graduating class for pushing through “in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed black human being.”
“And you still made it. We’re so proud of you. Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black Lives Matter,” Beyonce said. When speaking on the murder of George Floyd, the “Lemonade” singer said, “It has left the entire country searching for answers. We’ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, could start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you.”
The virtual ceremony also included appearances from Alicia Keys, Michelle Obama, Megan Thee Stallion, Chloe x Halle and many others.