This year, the pomp and circumstance of graduations has been relegated to a just plain weird circumstance.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, graduations across the country have been conducted on Zoom, diplomas handed out on front lawns and caps and gowns worn simply for a photo op.
But into that vacuum has sprung a wealth of wisdom from celebrities, athletes and even the budget beer brand Natural Light, which conducted their own commencement in May. Here are some of the most inspiring speeches for the class of 2020.
During YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” livestream, the “Lemonade” singer thanked the graduates for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, telling them “real change has started with you.” The 38-year-old Texan called out discrimination that she experienced in the music industry. She said it led her to take charge in her own career by starting her own company Parkwood Entertainment in 2010, which has allowed her to embrace her uniqueness and hire and elevate more women, “underdogs and people that were overlooked and waiting to be seen.”
“If you’re part of a group that’s called ‘other,’ a group that does not get the chance to be centerstage, build your own stage and make them see you. Your queerness is beautiful, your blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you, is beautiful,” she said.
The 44th president of the United States kicked off his YouTube commencement speech with a joint statement from him and his wife, Michelle. The 58-year-old then urged the grads to make a difference, while acknowledging that he wished his generation did more to solve the country’s heaviest issues.
“You don’t have to accept what was considered normal before,” Obama said. “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.”
In her YouTube commencement speech, the former first lady focused on the current state of uncertainty. She said she also felt just as confused, overwhelmed and angry, and suggested leaning into the latter, calling it, “a powerful force.”
“So, don’t ever, ever let anyone tell you that you’re too angry, or that you ‘should keep your mouth shut.’ There will always be those who want to keep you silent, to have you be seen but not heard, or maybe they don’t even want to see you at all,” Obama said. “But those people don’t know your story, and if you listen to them, then nothing will ever change.”
The ex-royal, known as the Duchess of Sussex, the Los Angeles native and wife to Prince Harry, addressed the graduates of her alma mater, Immaculate Heart High School. The 38-year-old spoke about Black Lives Matter, specifically George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. She recalled living through the LA riots in 1992, but also touched on the moments of unity these tumultuous times can produce. And while acknowledging that this may not be the dream ending to their high school careers, she urged them to spin its meaning.
“See this as the beginning of you harnessing all of the work, all the values, all the skills that you have, that you have embodied over the last four years . . . now you channel that,” Markle said.
The larger-than-life 44-year-old producer was part of iHeart Radio’s series of commencement speeches, and his stuck out for its brevity. Weighing in at only 3 minutes, he noted that because of the pandemic, no one will forget this class, calling them the “chosen ones.”
“This is history in the making but it is yours to make. Now go out there and make it,” he said. “Stay healthy, stay safe and stay blessed . . . Most important, stay you.”
The 50-year-old actor dished out some commencement wisdom on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” speaking specifically to modern issues of technology. He urged young people to be smart on social media.
“Act today in ways that you will respect tomorrow. From how you treat yourself to how you treat others in real life and online,” McConaughey said. “And what I mean by online, just remember those comments you leave online, those thumbs-up or thumbs-down, they will outlive you. They are part of your résumé of who you are.”
As part of Natural Light’s May commencement ceremony, the 36-year-old “Righteous Gemstones” comedian said he was honored to give a speech even though he has long been deemed “not serious” enough. But he told graduates that he doubled down on his goofiness. And he offered his slacker’s credo.
“I understand that there’s crazy pressure to figure things out, to have a game plan and to know what you’re going to do next, but I’m here to tell you, you just don’t have to man. Dude, you don’t have to have it figured out,” Devine said. “Sometimes in life when you don’t have something figured out, when you wing something, when life throws you a curveball and instead of hitting it with the bat you just bat it down with your hand and run the bases, that’s a home run!”
The 34-year-old singer rewrote her commencement speech for her portion of the Youtube ceremony, after the horrific death of George Floyd sparked protests across the country, calling this a “pivotal moment in this country’s evolution.”
“I think about a broad forest filled densely with tall trees. Trees as old as this country itself. Trees that were planted with racist seeds. Trees that grew prejudice branches and oppressive leaves and mangled roots that buried and entrenched themselves deep within the soil, forming a web so well developed and so entangled that push back when we try to look clearly at how it really works,” Lady Gaga said. “This forest is where we live; it’s who we are. It’s the moral and value system that we as a society have upheld and emboldened for centuries. I make this analogy between racism and nature in this country because it’s as pervasive and real as nature. It is some part of everything the light touches.”
King James organized his own “Graduate Together” event in mid-May tapping guest speakers including Barack Obama, Megan Rapinoe and Lena Waithe to deliver their own pearls of wisdom to the class of 2020. When it was his turn to speak, he stressed the importance of community and team, whether that’s your coach, minister or school. The Lakers star, 35, spoke metaphorically of staying close to your roots and giving back as you go out and change the world.
“The community needs you . . . class of 2020, I know the last thing you want to hear right now is ‘stay home,’ ” James said. “My message is, ‘Stay close to home.’ ”
The newly retired NY Giants quarterback, 39, told students to embrace uncertainty and discomfort, drawing from his own football career experience. As a part of the iHeart Radio commencement series, Manning delivered a self-deprecating, 11-minute monologue, even eluding to an arrest for public drunkenness.
“I don’t mind being in awkward situations or doing things that I don’t necessarily want to do . . . like becoming the Giants’ backup quarterback after winning two Super Bowls and walking away with the MVP,” he said. “Embracing awkward is worth cultivating. Because life . . . rarely goes as planned.”
Source: Page Six