YouTube's Dear Class of 2020 event brought out many stars to honor all of this year's graduating students who missed out on a proper commencement due to the coronavirus pandemic. The four-hour virtual affair was held on Sunday and alternated between fun moments -- like Lizzo opening the show with a trap rendition of the graduation classic, "Pomp and Circumstance," on her flute, along with musical performances from BTS, Megan Thee Stallion, and Chloe X Halle -- and some more serious notes, with people like Barack and Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga giving emotionally-charged speeches to encourage young activism. Other celebrities offered their own words of wisdom and touched on the unique situation graduates find themselves in this year -- Taylor Swift, for example, revealed that she, too, received her diploma by mail.
Beyoncé gave one of the first, and one of the longest, addresses, commending the ongoing protests around the world in the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and more Black people at the hands of the police. "Thank you for using your collective voice in letting the word know that Black Lives Matter," she said. "Real change has started with you, this new generation of high school and college graduates we celebrate today."
Lady Gaga offered similar thoughts about the current state of the world, saying that her speech was re-recorded after Floyd's death and "the subsequent activist movement protesting police brutality and systemic racism in this country." She went on to say, "You are watching what is a pivotal moment in the country's evolution. You're watching society change in a deeply important way. This change will be slow, and we will have to be patient, but change will happen, and it will be for the better."
Barack and Michelle Obama addressed the graduating class together at the top of the event, then both went on to give solo addresses. The former first lady's speech touched on the racial inequities spotlighted by the racist killings, and called this current moment in our history "unprecedented but not a complete anomaly," while encouraging students to stand up for their beliefs and continue to combat ignorance. Later, the former president, who has gotten pretty good at giving commencement speeches this year, told the class, "You don't have to accept what was considered normal before," he offered. "You don't have to accept the world as it is. You can make it into the world as it should be."
There were moments of levity, too, including BTS very sweetly delivering individual messages from all seven members and ending the event with a 12-minute performance in the Museum of Korea. Mariah Carey also "surprise" crashed the hilariously in-character Schitt's Creekcast reunion. Real fans will know exactly what that meant to Dan Levy's David Rose! ("I think I'm having a heart attack," he said.)
Billie Eilish, Jennifer Lopez, Demi Lovato, and Katy Perry also showed up to offer words of encouragement to the graduating class. All in all, it was the kind of commencement no high school or college could have pulled off in normal circumstances, and even those of us who didn't graduate this year can be eternally grateful for that.