LOS ANGELES (AP) – President Barack Obama said in an opening Sunday that nationwide protests following the recent deaths of unarmed black women and men, including George Floyd, were fueled by “decades of anxiety, frustration, unequal treatment and failure to perform police practices.
Obama and his wife Michelle gave speeches at the “Dear Class of 2020” virtual ceremony on YouTube. The duo, along with a wide range of stars including Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Tom Brady, offered inspirational messages in hopes of raising new graduates.
The former president told graduates that the coronavirus has highlighted a plethora of ongoing problems in the United States.
“In many ways, the pandemic has brought to light problems that have been developing for a very long time,” he continued. “Whether it is the worsening of economic inequality, the lack of basic health care for millions of people, the lingering scourge of bigotry and sexism, or the division or dysfunction that has plagued our system.” Politics.”
Obama added, “As scary and uncertain as these times are, they are also a wake-up call. And they represent an incredible opportunity for your generation. ”
Michelle Obama said the protests underway after Floyd’s death are “the direct result of decades of non-response, prejudice and inequality”. She said she understood those who were “scared or confused, angry, or just overwhelmed” by the events of the past few months.
“In the past few months, our foundation has been shaken,” she said. “Not only through a pandemic that has robbed too many of our loved ones, disrupted our daily lives and sent tens of millions of people out of work, but also by the rumble of the centuries-old faults on which our country was built, race lines and the power that is now once again so naked so that we can all deal with it. “
Beyoncé gave a moving 10-minute speech to the graduates. She talked about the recent protests and shared her secrets for success and the importance of ownership.
“You realize things that your parents and grandparents could never have imagined for themselves,” she said. “You are the answer to a generation of prayers. “
Beyoncé advised graduates to believe in them as she did when the singer started her own business a decade ago. She said creating your own path was a challenge in an entertainment business that is still “very sexist” and “male dominated”. The singer also said the protests have already had an impact.
“Look at what you have been able to do in the past 14 days,” she said. “We have seen the power of the collective. We have seen what happens when we join the same cause. Please continue to be the voice of the voiceless. “
The four-hour ceremony has been filmed in the past few weeks, but Lady Gaga has decided to re-record her message. Her initial speech addressed the effect of COVID-19 on this year’s promotion, but she wanted to talk more about the death of Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and racism in America.
“Although my initial opening speech is not directly related to what this country needs most at the moment, I want to tell you today that while there is reason to be sad, there is also has a lot to celebrate, ”she said. “You are looking at what is a pivotal moment in the evolution of this country. … Change will happen and it will be for the better. “
Taylor Swift said her high school diploma was not what she expected. The singer told how she was on tour and unable to attend her own ceremony.
“I know it’s not the kind of diploma you thought you had,” she said. “I ended up receiving my diploma in the mail. … It wasn’t exactly what I imagined. ”
Lizzo started the ceremony with a catchy performance. While brandishing her flute, singer “Truth Hurts” performed the classic “Pomp and Circumstance” before congratulating the graduates as the New York Philharmonic accompanied him.
Several music artists from Cynthia Erivo, Camila Cabello, Chris Martin from Coldplay, Ty Dolla $ ign, Khalid and others collaborated to sing a rendition of “Beautiful Day” by U2. Katy Perry led the graduates in the ceremonial acorn ride at the end of the early celebration.