Under normal circumstances, the graduating classes of the high schools, colleges and universities of North America would be walking across adorned stages, receiving diplomas and degrees and celebrating with peers and loved ones right now. But 2020 had other plans, what with the COVID-19 global pandemic prohibiting large gatherings, even in celebration of student success. To give the 2020 grads the physically-distanced send-off they deserve, a gaggle of celebrities and notable figures, led by Barack and Michelle Obama, got together for a YouTube "Dear Class of 2020" four-and-a-half-hour commencement address. The likes of Beyoncé, Lizzo, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Alicia Keys and the entire cast of Schitt’s Creek
(with a special Zoom pop-in by Mariah Carey) gave speeches and performances that weren't just uplifting and inspirational, but also very boldly called out sexism and racism at every opportunity. Issa 2020 mood.Ms. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter gave one of the most poignant speeches of the celebration, honouring graduates and thanking them for all they've done already in the anti-racism fight for Black lives while also reminding everyone that this work is far from over.
“Congratulations to the class of 2020,” Beyoncé began, “you have arrived—here 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, we’re so proud of you.”She went on to spotlight the progress of the Black Lives Matter protests that were sparked across the world in the past two weeks against racially-motivated police brutality.[video_embed id='1973292']Gaga, Alicia Keys, Katy Perry, & more stars honour the grads of 2020[/video_embed]“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black lives matter," Beyoncé said. "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,” she said.Beyoncé admitted how "terrifying" it is to "step out and bet on yourself," especially in industries where sexism runs rampant. “The entertainment business is still very sexist. It’s still very male-dominated and as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to do what I knew I had to do—to run my label, and management company, to direct my films and produce my tours. That meant ownership, owning my masters, owning my art, owning my future and writing my own story. Not enough Black women had a seat at the table […] That meant hiring women, men, outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlook and waiting to be seen.”
Michelle Obama: charting your own course
The ‘Class of 2020’ special, which kicked off with "Good as Hell" singer Lizzo playing the grad tune "Pomp and Circumstance" on her trusty Sasha Flute, was led by Michelle Obama
who also used her platform to speak about the moment of change we’re currently in.“Over these past couple of months, our foundation has been shaken,” she began. “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.”Addressing the recent events surrounding Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Christian Cooper, she said, “If you don't feel safe driving your own car in your own neighborhood or going for a jog, or buying some candy at 7-Eleven, or bird watching; if you can't even approach the police without fearing for your life, well, then how do you begin to chart your own course?”Admitting that she doesn’t have the answers, Obama said that graduates should couple their protest with focusing on meaning, service, change, growth, and most of all, voting.
Lady Gaga's new speech
Lady Gaga also used her commencement speech
to speak out about the prevalence of racism and its effects, and admitted that she had recorded a very different speech two weeks ago where the collective COVID-19 pandemic was the focus but she switched gears."My speech was recorded before the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent activist movement protesting police brutality and systemic racism in this country," she said.Gaga made sure to highlight that "although there is much to be sad about, there is also much to be celebrated" an encouraged the 2020 grads to lead with love.
Mariah's Zoom surprise
The "Class of 2020" YouTube special was imbued with a few moments of levity and laughs too, including when the cast of Canadian hit series Schitt’s Creek
appeared via video chat, in-character, to address the graduating class and sing their favourite song. As Catherine O’Hara (Moira, darling!), Eugene and Dan Levy and Annie Murphy bickered and bantered as the Rose family, Noah Reid
(aka Patrick) started an uplifting acoustic version of "Hero" by Mariah Carey. The entire cast harmonized together like angels, until the final few lines when suddenly the Queen of Queens, Mariah Carey popped onto the video-call to sing alongside them. “Moira darling, I hope you didn't mind that I jumped in like that,” Mariah said. “You all sounded so good that I had to get in on it.” It would appear both Dan Levy AND David Rose had a heart attack right there on camera.
As Mariah congratulated the graduating class, her two kids jumped in on the call too, prompting Mariah to add a few additional bars of "Always Be My Baby," at which point Dan/David broke down completely.[video_embed id='1972306']BEFORE YOU GO: Amanda Brugel says it's important to address systemic racism and injustice publicly [/video_embed]