Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Getty Images
Pour one out for the class of 2020, which will not only take its final classes over Zoom — and, in the case of college students, likely spend its final days of school away from campus — but will miss the celebration of an in-person commencement. While many schools will hold virtual ceremonies, and some have planned in-person festivities for the fall or spring, it’s still a pretty anticlimactic ending. That’s where our nation’s biggest celebrities — the Obamas, Oprahs, Hankses and Gagas — come in. Spurred by one senior’s popular request for a virtual speech by Barack Obama, celebrities have come together to give some much-needed words of encouragement to the graduates. And yes, that includes three (three!) Obama speeches. Choose your own virtual 2020 graduation adventure from the celebrity commencement events below.
Who could inspire us more in these trying times? Oprah will be the main speaker for Facebook and Instagram’s #Graduation2020 event, taking place on the platforms on May 15. Speaking alongside her will be Jennifer Garner, Awkwafina, Simone Biles, and Lil Nas X, while Miley Cyrus will perform her song “The Climb.” Keep those tissues close by for this one.
The former president will deliver his first of three virtual commencement speeches specifically for graduates of historically black colleges and universities. The two-hour “Show Me Your Walk: HBCU Edition” program will stream online at 2 p.m. ET on May 16.
College seniors, look away: LeBron James’s commencement event is high school only. “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020,” spearheaded by the LeBron James Family Foundation and its I PROMISE School, will once again feature Obama in the headlining slot. Support will come from Pharrell Williams, the Jonas Brothers, Malala Yousafzai, Megan Rapinoe, Lena Waithe, Bad Bunny, Ben Platt, Yara Shahidi, Chika, YBN Cordae, Loren Gray, H.E.R., Brandan Bmike Odums, and Charli D’Amelio. The one-hour special will air on CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox, along with YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, at 8 p.m. on May 16. If you’re not graduating from high school and you happen to accidentally stumble across this one, we won’t blame you.
Teen Vogue has brought together a lineup of inspiring women for its high-school and college commencement event, taking place May 31. Stacey Abrams, Jameela Jamil, Tracee Ellis Ross, Aly Raisman, and Noor Tagouri will speak, along with Anna Wintour, the iconic Vogue editor who oversees Teen Vogue as Condé Nast’s artistic director. Teen Vogue is also inviting graduating students to submit two-minute speeches, and two winners will speak during the livestream. The magazine is also putting on a prom featuring JoJo, Chloe x Halle, Beanie Feldstein, Becky G, Ava Max, and others on May 16 at 8 p.m. ET.
Barack may be making the virtual-commencement rounds, but YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” will be the only event during which you can also catch Michelle Obama. Along with the former president and First Lady, speakers will include Lady Gaga, Condoleezza Rice, Malala Yousafzai, Sundar Pichai, and Robert M. Gates. BTS will headline an after-party, while guests including Kerry Washington, Alicia Keys, Zendaya, Kelly Rowland, Chloe x Halle, the Try Guys, AsapSCIENCE, Mr. Kate, Dude Perfect, Jackie Aina, and Zane Hijazi. Catch it June 12 at 3 p.m. on YouTube.
Trust director John Waters to tell it like it is when it comes to the pandemic. The outspoken film director and icon of queer culture will remotely give the School of Visual Arts’ commencement address on May 27 at 1 p.m. ET, which will be open to watch on Facebook.
Now fully recovered from COVID-19 and ready to give the world his blood in the name of science, America’s dad, Tom Hanks, gave a virtual commencement for Wright State University’s department of theatre, dance, and motion pictures. “Congratulations to you, chosen ones,” Hanks said for the school’s May 2 ceremony. “I am calling you ‘chosen ones’ because you have been chosen in many ways. First, by the temperament and discipline you’ve lived by, by the creative fires that are inside of you, and the instinctive lunges of your desires.” He added, “The future is always uncertain, but we who celebrate what you have done, who celebrate all of your achievements, we are certain of one thing on this day: You will not let us down.”