Some of the biggest names in Hollywood and Washington came together to celebrate high school and college graduates in a four-hour YouTube special on Sunday. Black Lives Matter was, of course, a running theme throughout the ceremony. Like many, Beyoncé's Dear Class of 2020 commencement speech saluted graduates for using their "collective voice" against racial injustice.
The celebrity-studded convocation, opened and closed by former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama, featured appearances by Jennifer Lopez, Condoleezza Rice, the cast of Schitt's Creek and The Simpsons, Jimmy Kimmel, Taylor Swift, and more. Lizzo kicked it off with a flute rendition of the iconic graduation song "Pomp and Circumstance" alongside the New York Philharmonic, then Katy Perry and BTS performed later in the show.
Guests like Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga used their airtime to emphasize the importance of youthful voices in today's Black Lives Matter movement. This was indeed the theme of Beyoncé's 10-minute address.
"You have arrived here in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic, and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed Black human being," she opened. "And you still made it. Thank you. We're so proud of you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black lives matter."
A large portion of protesters who have taken to U.S. streets over the past few weeks have hailed from the youngest generation. Gen Zers are using social media as a "tool of justice," in the words of Kerrigan Williams and Jacqueline LaBayne, the 22- and 23-year-old activists who met at a sit-in over the death of George Floyd and together founded Freedom Fighters DC. Many have taken to TikTok to share their experiences with race-fueled familial confrontation.
"Real change has started with you," Beyoncé said. "This new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today."
In her speech, the singer talked about the challenges she faced while launching a company — Parkwood Entertainment — in what she called a sexist industry. "Not enough Black women had a seat at the table, so I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table. Then I had to invite the best there was to have a seat."
"To the young women, our future leaders, know that you're about to make the world turn. I see you. You are everything the world needs. Make those power moves. Be excellent," she said. "And to the young kings, lean into your vulnerability and redefine masculinity. Lead with heart."