Lizzo kicked off YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020 virtual commencement ceremony with a performance of Pomp & Circumstance alongside the New York Philharmonic. The performance also included photos of graduates in face masks and also participants in Black Lives Matter protests.
“Congratulations to the class of 2020! Now let’s turn it up!,” she said during the performance.
Beyoncé shared a powerful message to the graduating class of 2020, addressing the Black Lives Matter protests happening around the world in the wake of George Floyd's murder, urging the next generation to never stop using their voice for change.
"Congratulations to the Class of 2020. You have arrived in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic, and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed Black human being. And you still made it," she began. "Thank you. We're so proud of you, for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black Lives Matter."
She continued, "The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have left us all broken. It has left the entire country searching for answers. We've seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, could start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you. This new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today."
"We've seen the power of collective. We've seen what happens when we join for the same cause," Beyoncé said. "Please, continue to be the voice for the voiceless. Never forget we can disagree in a way that is productive to arrive at decisions that foster real change."
Listen to her full address below:
Taylor Swift appeared in YouTube's graduation special, sharing a comforting message for the Class of 2020.
The 30-year-old musician recalled that she also didn’t make it to her own graduation, saying: “I wanted to say congratulations to all the graduates this year. I know this is probably not the graduation you thought you were going to be having. I relate to that in a lot of ways."
She added, “When I was younger, I used to fantasise about high school graduation and being with all of your friends and cap and gown and the whole thing. Then when I got to that point in my life where graduation was coming up, I found myself on a radio tour with my mum in rental cars, sitting on the floors of airports, and I ended up being mailed my diploma.”
“So it wasn’t exactly what I pictured, but I was still really proud of it, and I guess one good lesson to come from it is expect the unexpected, but celebrate anyway," finishing “I’m so proud of you guys and I hope that you have a wonderful time and are really proud of yourselves.”
Former First Lady Michelle Obama used her graduation speech to urge graduates to use their anger for good and push for activism beyond social media.
"Over these past couple months our foundation has been shaken," she said. "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."
"What's happening right now is the direct results of decades of unaddressed prejudice an inequality. The truth is, when it comes to all those tidy stories of hard work and self-determination that we like to tell ourselves about America, well, the reality is a lot more complicated than that," she continued. "For too many people in this country, no matter how hard they work, there are structural barriers working against them that just make the road longer and rockier.
"If you don't feel safe driving your own car in your own neighbourhood? Or going for a jog or buying some candy at 7-11, or birdwatching? If you can't even approach the police without fearing for your life, then how do you even begin to chart your own course?"
Lady Gaga has been a loud voice in the wake of George Floyd's murder, delivering a powerful speech on racism during the virtual commencement. The 34-year-old performer spoke to the graduating class, urging them to eradicate systemic racism on all boards.
“You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this country’s evolution. You are watching society change in a deeply important way. This change will be slow, and we will have to be patient. But change will happen and it will be for the better,” she shared.
She continued, “All of us are being invited to challenge that system and think about how to affect real change. I believe in my heart that people who are going to make this change happen are listening to me speak right now. I know this is true because it’s you who are the seeds of the future. You are the seeds that will grow into a new and different forest that is far more beautiful and loving than the one we live in today.”
“We can control time and sufficient effort. We can’t control divine grace, but I believe divine grace is the faith we can choose to place in each other, to prosper lovingly and effectively," Gaga finished.
Alicia Keys offered up some encouraging words to the Class of 2020 with her speech. The 39-year-old musician opened up in her video message, saying that she knows “right now it might not feel like there’s a lot to celebrate and that’s okay.”
“It’s okay to not be okay right now. I know so many people are not thinking about your time at school,” she shared, before touching on the protests that are going on across the world. “You are showing that your generation is going to heal us. I promise to always be by your side, no matter where the fight for justice takes us next."
“The pain is not new but it feels different. For the first time, no matter what we look like or what we’re from, we can see so clearly what injustice looks like and now we can all choose how to respond. Change only happens when we educate ourselves and hold each other accountable and make sure we register to vote.”
“There’s nothing and no one that can stop you from changing the world. I see you. You’re unstoppable,” she concluded.
Katy Perry closed the show, with the 35-year-old pregnant singer performing her 2010 hit Fireworks and new single Daisies.
“Let's turn those tassels and make it kind of official — whether you’ve got a real cap and a tassel or an iPhone taped to a pizza box,” she said. “This is the moment for everyone around the globe to graduate at once. No matter where you are, remember: The tassel goes from right to left.”