For many, 2020 will forever be remembered as the year they were not able to attend their college graduation. When you think about it, it’s truly heartbreaking. This is the last graduation ceremony many people have. After spending the majority of your life in elementary, middle, and high school, college is the final destination (in terms of education) for many. It is that final walk to the podium as you receive your diploma that says, “goodbye school and hello real world”.
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Due to COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, many high schools and colleges have had to cancel commencement ceremonies. Luckily, virtual graduations have taken place in lieu of in-person ceremonies. While they are not the same, they have been organized to be special. Many noteworthy celebrities have participated in these virtual ceremonies as speakers. During this time, celebrities have come together to send off and inspire the class of 2020.
Graduates have attended virtual commencement ceremonies through digital platforms such as Zoom. In the Chicagoland area, seniors were able to listen to wise words from Oprah Winfrey, Common, and Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane.
Many of these speakers have encouraged the class of 2020 to participate in political activism, in light of the recent events surrounding the death of George Floyd, and the subsequent protests.
The biggest virtual commencement speech has been YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020, an event that was over four hours, being the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter throughout its entire duration. The lineup included both Barack and Michelle Obama, activist Malala Yousafzai, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, singer Lady Gaga, and K-pop group BTS. The speakers not only addressed the global pandemic and what the future may look like after COVID-19 but also how to handle the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests against police brutality.
Lady Gaga expressed that “All of us are being invited to challenge that system and think about how to effect real change”. Former President Barack Obama made sure to address the sadness one feels unable to attend graduation, the fear of the unknown post-graduation, as well as the protests and current political state of the economy. Obama reminded the class of 2020 that “We have to work to make things better”. He also said, “You don’t always need hope when everything’s going fine. It’s when things seem darkest – that’s when you need it the most.”
There were also performances breaking up the speeches, such as Katy Perry singing her new song “Daisies” and BTS performing their hit song “Boy in Luv” in front of the National Museum of South Korea.
Many young people were not able to attend their graduations – there was no long graduation walk, valedictorian speech, or the massive throwing of caps and tassels. Big photos with friends, classmates, professors, and family members weren’t on the agenda.
While many have tried their best to make the most out of the current situation, it has not been easy. COVID-19 along with the protests and the Black Lives Matter moment in general have made a harrowing truth come to light. However, with encouragement from family, friends, and prominent figures addressing the matters through graduation speeches, the class of 2020 can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is now up to them to play their part in making sure that light comes through.