Barack and Michelle Obama, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Sundar Pichai, and several other prominent personalities participated in a special virtual graduation ceremony for the graduating class of 2020 organised by YouTube.
As graduation ceremonies at schools and colleges were cancelled in wake of coronavirus pandemic, YouTube held a virtual graduation ceremony titled "Dear Class of 2020" on Sunday, which was headlined by former US president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama. The ceremony was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was postponed to not clash it with the George Floyd memorial service held on Saturday in Raeford, NC.
For the multihour Livestream event that included commencement speech, live performances, and inspirational speeches, the former first couple was joined by Bill and Melinda Gates, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, BTS, Lizzo, Shonda Rhimes, Demi Lovato, Kelly Rowland, Kevin Durant, Finneas, Zendaya, and more.
Before the celebrations started, Alicia Keys delivered an inspiring message to the graduates noting that they may not feel like celebrating due to the ongoing nationwide protests following the death of African-American George Floyd on May 25. Her speech was followed by a performance by Lizzo who kicked off the event by playing the graduation song alongside The New York Philharmonic.
Barack and Michelle Obama gave separate commencement speeches, as well as a joint message for the graduates. "Today is the culmination of a long journey. Think back to where you were starting your first year... just as you were rounding the final turn the world turned a pandemic your way," Barack said, while Michelle appreciated the students to take finals while supporting their loved ones during the COVID-19 crisis.
Beyonce also spoke about the "Black Lives Matter" movement in her address at the event and thanked the students for using their "collective voice" to show their support to the cause. Taylor Swift also celebrated the graduating class and revealed that she also missed out on her graduation ceremony as she was on a radio tour. "One good lesson is to expect the unexpected and celebrate anyways," the "Lover" singer said.
The cast of Schitt's Creek appeared in their character in the ceremony to provide comic relief and then sang Mariah Carey's "Hero," for which they were joined by the Grammy-winning singer herself. "To the students who had to deal with this bleak moment, congratulations on this historic accomplishment," Carey said to the students.
Stephen Colbert also joined the Dear Class of 2020 virtual event, and appreciated the students for "making a sacrifice right now that in very real ways is saving lives, lives of people you've never even met."
Lady Gaga also delivered an impassionate speech for the graduates and revealed that she was originally planning to talk about the COVID-19 crisis, but later changed it after the "murder of George Floyd and the subsequent activist movement."
The event was graced by a number of other commencement speakers, including former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, CEO of Alphabet and Google Sundar Pichai, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. Katy Perry, BTS, Camila Cabello, Chloe x Halle, CNCO, Doja Cat, Gaga, Lizzo, Maluma, and Meghan Thee Stallion performed during the event.