Stars recognized and encouraged this year's graduating class in YouTube's "Dear Class of 2020." The show went live on Sunday, June 7, amid the Covid-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.
As part of YouTube Originals, the four-hour graduation special featured appearances from numerous celebrities. The event opened with Lizzo performing Sir Edward Elgar's "Pomp and Circumstance," better known as the "Graduation March." The New York Philharmonic then accompanied her. The march, remixed against a hip-hop beat, showed images of graduating students amidst the Black Lives Matter protests.
Alicia Keys: "Your generation is the one that's gonna heal this."
"Dear Class of 2020, you've accomplished something remarkable," Alicia Keys began. "But let's be honest, it's been a hard week and a hard month and a hard year." She noted how several students no longer think of school as much as they do the events happening now. She was referring to the nationwide protests.
"I promise to always be by your side, no matter where the fight for justice takes us next," Keys assured the graduates.
Michelle and Barack Obama Are Batch 2020's Supportive Parents
The former first couple also shared a few reminders to the class of 2020. Michelle Obama noted that the graduates might not get the usual experience, such as sweating under the graduation outfit or be embarrassed as their family yells their name. However, the former first lady reminded me that all those people are still with the graduates, "just like they've been with you this whole journey."
The couple also reminded the graduate to give these people "a squeeze," especially the dads and moms.
Barack Obama then reminded the graduates of the lessons they had along the journey. He recounted their first day up until this point in their lives. The couple also gave credit to Batch 2020 for helping other people adjust and adapt in the middle of the pandemic.
"You all have done something great, hold your head high and celebrate," the former US president said. "Go ahead and do a little dance," Michelle added.
Taylor Swift: "Expect the unexpected but celebrate anyway."
Country-pop superstar Taylor Swift related her own graduation story with the graduating class of 2020, who had to cancel the formal ceremonies because of the global coronavirus pandemic. She shared how, during her graduation, she was not able to attend. As her friends went up the stage, T-Swift was on a radio tour with her mom. She said that she later received her diploma through the mail.
The Mother Monster Calls To The "Seeds of Our Future"
Lady Gaga appeared in a podium, wearing a black bandanna and a spiked leather jacket. She revealed that she already recorded her speech two weeks ago before George Floyd's death.
The Mother Monster began by explaining that she used to record a very different commencement speech. Her original message was focused on the "wonderful accomplishment that is your graduation." She noted focusing on the students' shared experience under the coronavirus pandemic.
She then likened racism in America as a forest, with "trees as old as this country." She described these trees being planted with racist seeds, and later grew "prejudiced branches and oppressive leaves and mangled roots."
"People can do hard things. You can do hard things. You can rip up and replant the forest to be a vision only you have," Lady Gaga told the graduates.
A Star-Studded Virtual Graduation Event
The event saw appearances from celebrities, including Billie Eilish, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Demo Lovato, Seth Rogen, Justin Timberlake, Shawn Mendes, and more.
Also, footage showed literature and civil rights icon Miss Maya Angelo reciting her poem "Still I Rise." The poem was continued by African-American stars Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelly Rowland, Janelle Monae, Shonda Rhimes, and Yara Shahidi. Madison Calley played the harp while and Naya Lovell danced during the poem.
With the virtual graduation ceremony, YouTube, and its parent company Google teamed up with Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative. They have launched the campaign "Dear Class of 2020 Fund." The fund aims to help students through virtual coaching and scholarship grants.