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Oprah’s 2020 Commencement: What You Need to Know


Hugging friends? Nope. Group photos with grandparents? Unlikely. Tossing caps in the air? Perhaps, if you can find one, but please make sure they don’t hit the ceiling.

As high school and college come to an end for the Class of 2020, the coronavirus has upended the traditional celebrations that accompany those milestones.

Instead of walking across a stage to cheers, the nation’s nearly 3.7 million high school seniors and some 3 million college graduates will receive their diplomas in the mail or on their phones. And commencement speakers will offer life advice through a webcam, instead of looking across a sea of smiling graduates.

But because of the disruption, this year’s crop of speakers and well-wishers include some of America’s biggest celebrities, appearing in virtual ceremonies in an effort to ease the sting of the lost pomp and circumstance.

Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak, former co-stars of “The Office,” are hosting the event, and several others are scheduled to share “words of wisdom,” including Simone Biles, the Olympic gymnast; Lil Nas X, the rapper and singer; Awkwafina, the rapper-turned-actress; and Jennifer Garner, the actress. Miley Cyrus will perform.

The live-streamed ceremony includes photographs and videos of graduating seniors from across the country, as well as messages from college deans and high school principals.

Next month, Ms. Winfrey will also headline a graduation ceremony for high school seniors in Chicago, where she filmed her top-rated talk show for more than two decades.

On Saturday, former President Barack Obama is scheduled to give two commencement speeches, the first at 2 p.m. for graduates of historically black colleges and universities, and another in an 8 p.m. prime time special for high school graduates airing on all the major television networks.

Mr. Obama is also scheduled to speak at a commencement hosted by YouTube on June 6, along with Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and the K-pop group BTS.

Other prominent graduation speakers this year include the actor Tom Hanks, who survived infection with the coronavirus and told graduates at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, that their lives would be marked by the pandemic in the same way that previous generations experienced wars.

President Trump plans to address graduating cadets at West Point on June 13. Unlike other commencements, this one will be in person, with the academy summoning 1,000 cadets back for the event.

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee to face Mr. Trump in November, is scheduled to speak virtually to Columbia University law school graduates, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will give a speech for Smith College in Massachusetts.



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