Virtual Commencement Ceremony for Class of 2020

Following a viral tweet, the world’s biggest celebrities came forward for the virtual commencement ceremony of all 2020 graduates.

With the ongoing global pandemic bringing to a halt all mass events and celebrations everywhere, students of the class of 2020 have it particularly unfortunate as they will miss out on the celebrations of an in-person commencement. While many schools will hold virtual ceremonies to fill the gap and others have planned in-person celebrations for later in the year, the situation was bettered when celebrities decided to come together and give these soon-to-be graduates some much-needed words of encouragement.

Following a viral tweet from a fellow 2020 graduate asking former President Barack Obama to share a “national commencement speech to the class of 2020”, #ObamaCommencement2020 began trending on Twitter. Shortly after that, YouTube announced a virtual commencement ceremony, Dear Class of 2020, with a massive celebrity lineup – including former First Lady Michelle Obama, Internationally-acclaimed singer Beyoncé, singer and actor Lady Gaga and K-pop group BTS among others – to share a few words of encouragement to the graduating class.

Watch President Barack Obama’s Commencement Speech | Dear Class of 2020 via Obama Foundation on YouTube

Another lineup of celebrities including Gaga, Lizzo, Doja Cat, Maluma, and others were slated to perform during the ceremony, while BTS was scheduled to headline a virtual after-party. Initially scheduled to stream on YouTube Originals on 6 June, the event had gotten postponed to 7 June to honor the memorial service of George Floyd, which was taking place in Floyd’s hometown, Raeford, North Carolina.

Watch Dear Class of 2020 via YouTube

The event began with a commencement speech from former US President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama. Barack Obama started off his speech by addressing the protests and events that had followed George Floyd’s murder. “In a lot of ways, the pandemic just brought into focus problems that have been growing for a very long time,” he said. “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 division or dysfunction that plagued our political system.” He added, “As scary and uncertain these times may be, they are also a wake-up call. And they’re an incredible opportunity for your generation.” Michelle Obama talked along the same lines and highlighted that the reasons for the protests for Floyd’s death were a “direct result of decades of unaddressed, prejudice and inequality.”

Watch Beyoncé‘s Commencement Speech | Dear Class of 2020 via YouTube

Beyoncé delivered a stirring speech to the graduates in which she spoke about the protests and shared her secrets to success and emphasized the importance of ownership. The singer advised the graduates to believe in themselves as she did in herself when she started her own company a decade ago – “I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to what I knew I had to do – run my label, my management company,  direct my films and produce my tours – that meant ownership, owning my masters, owning my art, owning my future and writing my own story,” she said. “Not enough black women had a seat at the table. So I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table. Then I had to invite the best there was to have a seat. That meant hiring women, men, outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlooked and waiting to be seen.” Beyoncé also talked about the violence against black people and how this has affected everyone. “Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the worlds know that black lives matter. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others have left us all broken,” she said. “We’ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, could start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you, this new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today.”

Watch Lady Gaga Addressed The Class of 2020 | Dear Class of 2020 via YouTube

While the four-hour-long ceremony was filmed over the last several weeks, Lady Gaga decided to re-record her message. Her initial message had touched on the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on this year’s graduating class but she wanted to speak about Floyd’s death, the Black Lives Matter movement, and racism in the USA. “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 though there is much to be sad about, there is also much to celebrate,” she said. “You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this country’s evolution… Change will happen, and it will be for the better.”, she said. “I believe in my heart that the people who are going to make this change happen are listening to me speak right now. “

Watch Lizzo ft. The NY Philharmonic | Dear Class of 2020 via YouTube

Taylor Swift narrated her own graduation story, “I know this isn’t the kind of graduation you thought you were going to be having,” she said. “I ended up getting mailed my diploma. … It wasn’t exactly what I had pictured.” Lizzo performed the classic Pomp and Circumstance before she congratulated graduates as the New York Philharmonic accompanied her. Several artists such as Camilla Cabello, Chris Martin (of Coldplay), Ty Dolla $ign, Khalid, and many others, collaborated to perform a rendition of Beautiful Day by U2. The ceremonial tassel turn was led by Katy Perry at the end of the celebration.





Feature Image Via Canva

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