(NEW YORK) — The graduating class of 2020 received a very special and powerful message from the Obamas in YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020 virtual commencement ceremony on Sunday.
Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama issued a parental-like joint-speech at the start of the nearly-four hour ceremony, remarking how excited they were for the graduating class before telling them to hug their dads and call the family members who made a positive impact on their lives.
“Hold your heads high and celebrate,” the former president cheered, before Michelle gave the outgoing class permission to do a little dance. “Embarrass yourselves,” she laughed while busting her own moves as her husband chuckled.
The lighthearted and goofy tone from their joint-speech was toned down for their separate addresses, however.
The former FLOTUS opened with “I am here today to talk to you not as the former first lady, but as a real live person: a mother, a mentor, a citizen concerned about your future and the future of our country.”
While touching upon the COVID-19 pandemic and protests over George Floyd‘s death, she continued, “If any of you are scared, or confused, or angry, or just plain overwhelmed by it all, if you feel like you’re searching for a lifeline just to steady yourself, you are not alone. I am feeling all of that, too. I think we all are. So, I want you to know that it’s okay to be confused.”
Mrs. Obama added that she, nor her generation has all the answers to America’s problems, noting that things would be much different if they had. She concluded on three lessons: Life will always be uncertain, treat others with compassion, and never be afraid to speak on behalf of what matters.
While detailing what her last lesson meant, the former FLOTUS said, “Anger is a powerful force. It can be a useful force. But left on its own, it will only corrode, and destroy, and sow chaos on the inside and out. But when anger is focused, when it’s channeled into something more, that is the stuff that changes history.”
Barack Obama shared a similar message and urged the graduates to take full advantage of their educational background.
“I’ll admit that it’s a little unfair to lay such a heavy burden on you. I wish that my generation had done more to solve some of our country’s big problems, so you didn’t have to. But the good news is that I know you’re up to the challenge. You are the best-educated generation in history,” he remarked.
Mr. Obama also imparted three lessons of his own: Do what’s right, listen to each other, and have faith in democracy.
The former president urged the class of 2020 to vote, concluding with a resolute “Democracy isn’t about relying on some charismatic leader to make changes from on high. It’s about finding hope in ourselves and creating it in others. Especially in a time like this.”
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