“Even though there may not be pomp because of our circumstances, never has a graduating class been called to step into the future with more purpose, vision, passion, energy and hope,” Winfrey said.
She cited the Latin origin of the word “graduate.” “Gradus” means to step towards. She asked the class of 2020 to lead the way into post-pandemic society.
“Can you, the class of 2020, show us not how to put the pieces back together again but how to create a new and more evolved normal, a world more just, kind, beautiful, tender, luminous, creative, whole?” Winfrey said. “We need you to do this because the pandemic has illuminated the vast systemic inequities that have defined life for too many for too long.”
Winfrey thanked essential workers and highlighted how the pandemic disproportionately affected the poor, immigrant and incarcerated communities. She also addressed communities affected by racial inequality, stating that the black community is afraid to go jogging for fear of violence, a reference to Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed in Georgia in February.
“You have the power to stand for and fight for and vote for healthier conditions that will create a healthier society,” Winfrey said
She suggested every graduate in 2020 could become an essential worker if they figure out what service they can provide the world.
“How will you use what matters in service to yourself, your community and the world? Use it to create more equity, more justice and joy in the world.”
“The Office” costars and writers Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak hosted the Facebook Live graduation, which showcased graduating classes in all 50 states. Originally scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. EDT, the live stream started 30 minutes late and continued to have technical glitches in its first hour.
Video frequently froze as the 2-hour graduation roll continued. Many celebrities recorded congratulatory messages for the class of 2020 including Diplo, DJ Khaled, Awkwafina, Kristen Bell, Hugh Jackman (who said, “Listen to Oprah.”), Hasan Minhaj, The Kid Mero, Desus Nice, Jennifer Garner, Steve Aoki, the Fab Five from “Queer Eye,” Matthew McConaughey, Yara Shahidi and Selena Gomez.
Miley Cyrus also said congratulations and performed her song, “The Climb.”