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Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and more call for perseverance and kindness in 'Dear Class of 2020' salute

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Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney, Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Celebrities from Beyoncé to the Obamas banded together to honor grads in the Dear Class of 2020 virtual commencement ceremony on Sunday, which streamed on YouTube.  While the speakers nodded to the uncertain times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and protests over the death of George Floyd, the overall message bestowed upon the graduates was “be kind” and “persevere.”

Kicking off the virtual commencement was Lizzo who performed a hip-hop flavored “Pomp & Circumstance” on her flute alongside the New York Philharmonic.

The upbeat, celebratory atmosphere continued into Justin Timberlake‘s commencement speech, in which he praised the graduates from his makeshift podium made entirely of cardboard boxes.  “So 2020 decided to test you,” the “Can’t Stop the Feeling” singer noted, “I’m speaking on behalf of the world when I say, we’re impressed,” adding, “Nothing — not even a global pandemic — is going to keep you from the future you make for yourself.”

Taylor Swift in her speech empathized with the outgoing graduates, saying, “I know this probably isn’t the kind of graduation you thought you were going to be having, I relate to that in a lot of ways.” The 30-year-old detailed how she was unable to attend her high school graduation with her friends because she was on tour, so her school mailed her diploma.  

“I guess one good lesson to come from it is, expect the unexpected but celebrate anyway,” she encouraged. “I’m so proud of you guys.”

Calls for self-confidence and leadership continued throughout the nearly four-hour broadcast.

Beyoncé, during her speech, inspired the graduating class to create their own destinies when speaking about how she built her own company, which she admits was a terrifying journey of self-discovery.  “The entertainment business is still very sexist,” she noted, “Not enough black women had a seat at the table, so I had to go and chop my own wood and build my own table.”  The Grammy-singer concluded by prompting grads to become the leaders the world needs.

Alicia Keys also encouraged the graduates to embrace more leadership roles to help “heal us.”  She concluded with a resonating, “There’s nothing and no one that can stop you from changing the world. I see you. You’re unstoppable.”

Lady Gaga also called for graduates to be kind, adding in her emotionally-charged speech that showing mercy and compassion can be terrifying.  

Other highlights included The Simpsons snarkily telling graduates that they are now able to graduate from living in their parents’ basements to working in their parents’ basement due to COVID-19 as well as Mariah Carey crashing the Schitt’s Creek cast’s salute to grads, performing “Hero” alongside them before sending everyone her love and well wishes.

Katy Perry helped wrap up the broadcast, cheering, “Let’s turn those tassels and make it kinda official — whether you’ve got a real cap and a tassel or an iPhone taped to a pizza box. This is the moment for everyone around the globe to graduate at once” before performing “Daisies” and “Firework.”

By Megan Stone
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