Celebrities including Beyoncé, Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga acknowledged the historic moment we are living amid the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter marches as they gave speeches to graduating students in a YouTube special.
In the “Dear Class of 2020” livestream on Sunday, June 7, Beyoncé acknowledged the “global crisis,” telling students that despite everything, “you still made it.”
“We’ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, can start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you,” the Grammy winner, 38, said. “Your queerness is beautiful. Your blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you is beautiful.”
Obama, 56, admitted that “our foundation has been shaken. Not just by a pandemic that stole too many of our loved ones, upended our daily lives and sent tens of millions into unemployment. But also by the rumbling of the age-old fault lines that our country was built on. The lines of race and power that are now, once again, so nakedly exposed for all of us to grapple with.”
She added that if any of the graduates were feeling “scared, or confused, or angry, or just plain overwhelmed by it all,” they are not alone.
“I am feeling all of that too. I think we all are,” the former first lady continued.
Obama then pushed for activism that goes beyond social media messages.
“Sometimes it’s easier to stand with strangers at a protest than it is to challenge someone in your own backyard. So if you hear people express bigoted views or talking down to ‘those people,’ it is up to you to call them out. Because we won’t solve anything if we’re only willing to do what’s easiest,” she said. “You’ve got to make hard choices and sacrifice. If you’re spending a lot of time just hashtagging and posting, that’s useful especially during a pandemic, but it’s only a beginning. Go further. Send all your friends a link to register to vote. Text everybody you know to join you to exercising their constitutional right to protest.”
Lady Gaga, 34, revealed that her speech had been recorded two weeks ago, before the death of George Floyd while in police custody triggered protests across the U.S. and around the world.
She admitted there is “much to be sad about, there is 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.”
The “Born This Way” singer said that she thinks of racism as “a broad forest” filled with “trees that grew prejudiced branches and oppressive leaves and mangled roots.” She told students, “You can rip up and replant the forest to be a vision only you have.”
Lizzo performed “Pomp and Circumstance” on the flute to open the presentation, while Star Wars costars Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley read portions of the Dr. Seuss story “Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”
Other stars including Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake, Shawn Mendes, BTS, Tom Hanks, Alicia Keys and Billie Eilish also took part in the special.
Former president Barack Obama reappeared at the end of the program and told the graduating class that the peaceful protesters are “unbelievably inspiring” and make him “optimistic about our future.”
“America changed, has always changed, because young people dared to hope,” he concluded. “Congratulations Class of 2020. Make it mean something, and keep making us proud.”
Pregnant Katy Perry, her baby bump on display in a white gown, then closed out the special with a performance of “Daisies” and “Firework.”
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