Last weekend’s massive virtual graduation for high school and college seniors carried a message of community at a time when COVID-19 prevents the possibility of large in-person gatherings.
In their online commencement speeches, political leaders, Hollywood luminaries and professional athletes spoke words of encouragement to the graduates and summoned them to step up and reshape the world into a better place.
The following are excerpts from their speeches.
Former President Barack Obama:
“When everything is up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape. This pandemic has shaken up the status quo and laid bare a lot of our country’s deep-seated problems,” said Obama, pointing to economic inequality, systemic racism, and health-care disparities.
Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai:
“Remember girls around the world who may never return to the classroom because of this crisis. But the Class of 2020 won’t be defined by what we lost to this virus but by how we responded to it. The world is yours now. And I can’t wait to see what you make of it.
Vice President Mike Pence, speaking in person to the graduating class at the United States Air Force Academy:
“I know we gather at a time of great challenge in the life of our nation, and you all here in the pursuit of your commission and the service of this nation have been through a lot. And while we don’t quite look like the usual graduation, let me tell you this is an awesome sight.”
“Can you use this disorder that COVID-19 has wrought, can you treat it as an uninvited guest that’s come into our midst to reorder our way of being? Can you, Class of 2020, show us not how to put the pieces back together again, but how to create a world more just, kind, beautiful, tender, luminous, creative, whole? Happy gradfuation, Class of 2020. You got this.”
Former President Bill Clinton:
“The coronavirus has given you a graduation you will never forget, and it’s released you into an uncertain future. Even before the outbreak, you knew you were entering a world of growing inequalities and divisive tribalism. It’s put your future, our democracy, out very planet at risk. I urge you to embrace the challenge. The world needs you. Your country needs you.”
NBA superstar LeBron James:
“Class of 2020, I know the last thing you want to hear right now is stay home. It’s not my message to you. My message is, stay close to home. Maybe not physically, but in every other way possible. Do not forget the safety net of teachers, coaches, pastors, friends and family. You should’ve had a real graduation, I know. You should’ve had an incredible senior year, I know. But you made a sacrifice, and you did it to keep your community safe and healthy. In behalf of all of us, thank you.”