On Sunday, Barack Obama and Michelle Obama hosted YouTube’s virtual graduation ceremony “Dear Class of 2020”. The five-hour, festival-style event combined classic commencement day themes with a diverse array of entertainment. As part of the festivities, both Beyoncé and BTS gave commencement speeches, which you can replay below.
Beyoncé began her commencement speech by recognizing the global health crisis and racial pandemic that has simultaneously gripped America. “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,” Beyoncé commented. Even still, she commended the graduating class for using “your collective voice and letting the worlds know that Black lives matter.”
She then relayed her own experiences with racism and sexism in the music industry, and how she sought to be a leader for equality by launching her own company. “Not enough Black women had a seat at the table. So I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table. Then I had to invite the best there was to have a seat. That meant hiring women, men outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlook and waiting to be seen,” she said. “One of the main purposes of my art for many years has been dedicated to showing the beauty of Black people to the world, our history, our profundity and the value of Black lives. I’ve tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence.”
Beyoncé left the class with the following message: “To the young women, our future leaders, know that you’re about to make the world turn. I see you. You are everything the world needs. Make those power moves. Be excellent. And to the young kings, lean into your vulnerability and redefine masculinity… To all those who feel different. If you’re part of a group that’s called ‘other,’ a group that does not get the chance to be center stage, 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. I hope you continue to go into the world and show them that you will never stop being yourself. That it’s your time now, make them see you.”
For their commencement speech, each member of BTS shared their own memories of graduation and the lessons they took from it. “I hope our stories reached you all today. Some say we have achieved so many things, but we are no different from others in their 20s,” RM remarked. “We may just be seeing each other through a camera, but I know your future will boom into something much bigger.”
Later on in the evening, BTS returned to headline the post-graduation party.
Elsewhere during “Dear Class of 2020”, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Camila Cabello, Tove Lo, Ty Dolla $ign, Khalid, Leon Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Ben Platt, and Noah Cyrus joined forces to cover U2’s “Beautiful Day” produced by Finneas.
U2 frontman Bono himself introduced the cover. “As an Irishman, I’ve always believed America is not just a country but an idea and a dream that belongs to the whole world,” Bono commented. “I know in recent times the world has been reminded that America is an idea that doesn’t even belong to a lot of Americans. For many black Americans, Lady Liberty’s torch is far from a beacon of hope — it’s often a flashlight in the face.”
“Now there were storm clouds over Dublin when U2 recorded ‘Beautiful Day’, things were not as they might have been. But the song was not a description of where we were at, it was a prayer for where we could go, and a dream — like America is a dream — of where we might be. We now know that America is a song yet to be written. That America might be the greatest song the world has never heard. It’s a wild thought, that America is yet to exist. And even wilder that the Class of 2020 might be the very people to bring it into being.”
Also, Lizzo kicked off the event by performing “Pomp and Circumstance” on flute, accompanied by the New York Philharmonic.