The Obamas, Beyoncé and More Deliver Heartfelt Speeches For YouTube's Virtual Commencement Ceremony

The Obamas and Beyonce are some of the big names who made speeches during YouTube’s live-streamed graduation ceremony on Sunday.
The Obamas and Beyonce are some of the big names who made speeches during YouTube’s live-streamed graduation ceremony on Sunday.
Photo: Scott Olson (Getty Images), Gareth Cattermole (Getty Images)

YouTube’s live-streamed commencement ceremony to celebrate the members of the graduating class of 2020 nationwide was held on Sunday. “Dear Class of 2020” was initially going to stream on Saturday, however, it was pushed back a day out of respect for George Floyd’s memorial service.


The four-hour event, which was filmed over the course of several weeks, was headlined by Barack and Michelle Obama, who delivered separate speeches with mentions of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the latest developments regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Other speeches during the event included Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and more.

“In a lot of ways, the pandemic just brought into focus problems that have been growing for a very long time,” Mr. Obama said during his speech. “Whether it’s widening economic inequality, the lack of basic health care for millions of people, the continuing scourge of bigotry and sexism, or the division or dysfunction that plagued our political system.”

Mrs. Obama added her sentiments about the nationwide protests against police brutality, which she said were the “direct result of decades of unaddressed prejudice and inequality.”

“Over these past couple of 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.”

Of course, the former president and first lady congratulated the graduates for making it this far. Although this is not the graduation ceremony any of them expected, it’s important to shine a light on their hard work and dedication to their studies.

“You are achieving things your parents and grandparents never could imagine for themselves,” Mrs. Obama said. “You are the answer to a generation of prayers.”

Additionally, music superstar Beyoncé had some fond words for the Class of 2020 about believing in themselves amidst adversity, which she highlighted with stories of her own experiences in the music industry.


“As a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to do what I knew I had to do,” she says in her clip. “To run my label and management company, to direct my tours, that meant ownership—owning my masters, owning my heart, owning my future and owning my own story.”

Queen Bey also celebrated the differences found amongst members of the graduating class, an important ode especially in today’s day and age.


“Your queerness is beautiful, your blackness is beautiful, your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you is beautiful,” she said.

Megan Thee Stallion, Chloe x Halle and other artists performed during both the ceremony and the afterparty. Watch some of the highlights here:

Pronounced "Jay-nuh."