LeBron James hosts "Graduate Together,"
honoring the high school class of 2020
With graduation season basically cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic, legendary basketball player LeBron James kicked off a special virtual event – Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 – which celebrated more than three million high school seniors across the nation.
Others who participated in last night's show, which was simultaneously broadcast on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC and a host of social media and streaming services, included Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, World Cup champion and US women's national team soccer player Megan Rapinoe, and former President Barack Obama. Interestingly, LeBron, Rapinoe, and Obama have all been the target of President Donald Trump's verbal insults and attacks, for reasons that are both pathetic and embarrassing. (See here, here, and here.)
Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy – that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way – which is why things are so screwed up. I hope that instead, you decide to ground yourself in values that last, like honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others.
Obama also talked about the importance of good leadership, noting (in true Marianne Williamson fashion) that “the old ways of doing things just don’t work” and thus the need to “set the world on a different path.”
“Demand better – together”
Meanwhile, Megan Rapinoe, the out lesbian USWNT World Cup Golden Ball winner, reminded students that “Every generation has a defining moment, a collective experience that will leave an indelible mark on each member. This is your moment and it is unlike any we have ever see before.”
“I’m not gonna ask you to come together,” said Rapinoe, “I’m gonna ask you to demand better – together.”
Rapinoe also had some specific advice for the class of 2020, most of whom will be voting for the very first time, about the importance of the election this November. She didn’t say whom to vote for, but her message was clear: “Who is leading matters.”
“The world is yours now”
And speaking of leaders, the inspiring education advocate and Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who, like the students she addressed last night is also missing out on her graduation ceremony this year, observed that, “Across the world, COVID-19 has forced one billion students out of school. For most of us, this is temporary and we will continue our education and follow our dreams.”
Yet Yousafzai reminded the American students she was addressing that millions of their peers in other parts of the world – particularly young women – won’t have the same opportunities moving forward.
Many girls, especially in developing countries, will never return to the classroom. Because of this crisis, they will be forced into early marriages or low paying jobs to support their families, and when schools re-open, their desks will be empty. They are our peers. They have the same right to education as we do. So I ask you to remember them today as you go out and change the world, don’t leave them behind.
“The class of 2020 won’t be defined by what we lost to this virus, but how we responded to it,” Yousafzai concluded, adding, “The world is yours now, and I can’t wait to see what you make of it.”
“You're All Kings and Queens”
As you can see, there were lots of inspiring sentiments and words shared during last night's Graduate Together broadcast. I conclude by sharing LeBron James' remarks and a YouTube video of the hour-long broadcast itself. Enjoy!
Seniors, tonight is for you. Tonight, we honor twelve years of your hard work. The studying, the tests, early mornings and late nights. And we honor everyone who got you here – your friends, your family, your community. Class of 2020, this is for you. Every student you see, the videos in our show, the pictures you see around me now, are all part of your graduation class and sent in by you guys. Before we get to the show, there is something I want to say to each of you. Thank you. You should have had a real graduation. I know. You should have had an incredible senior year. I know that as well.
But you made a sacrifice. And you did that to keep your community safe and healthy. On behalf of all of us, thank you. There is no doubt in my mind that the class of 2020 is going to be something really special. "After all this? You guys are prepared for anything. So celebrate. Be proud. Tonight is for you. We are all ready for the class of 2020 to change the world. Congratulations.
. . . In our poorest neighborhoods, schools are about much more than learning. In places like Akron, Ohio, schools are the most essential service. It may be the only place to support you, the only place to protect you, and for many, the only place to feed you. Our schools are our safety net. Our people build our communities. The class of 2020, as you celebrate tonight, do not forget your safety net.
Every teacher, every coach, and every pastor. They, along with your friends and family, got you to this moment. And now, it is time to go to a new place. It is time to chase every dream. Accept every challenge. Strive for greatness. Honor every promise. And recommit to your community.
The last thing you want to hear right now is 'stay home.' That's not my message to you. My message is, 'Stay close to home.' Maybe not physically but in every other way possible. Pursue every ambition. Go as far as you possibly can dream. And be the first generation to embrace a new responsibility. A responsibility to rebuild your class of 2020, the world has you will determine how we and I ask that you make your community your priority.
Congratulations, class of 2020. I love all of you. And remember one thing, you're all kings and queens.
Related Off-site Links:
LeBron James Hosts 'Graduate Together' Event for Class of 2020 – NBA.com (May 16. 2020).
LeBron James Pumps Up Students With Empowering 'Graduating Together' Speech – Liz Calvario (ET Online, May 16, 2020).
LeBron James Assures 2020 Graduates They Are "Prepared for Anything" After Coronavirus Pandemic – Samantha Schnurr (E-Online, May 16, 2020).
Barack Obama Attacks Trump Administration's Response to Coronavirus Pandemic During Speeches to Graduating Students – Jessica Glenza (The Guardian, May 17, 2020).
Obama Says U.S. Lacks Leadership on Virus in Commencement Speeches – Audra D. S. Burch and John Eligon (The New York Times, May 16, 2020).
See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
• LeBron James: A True American Hero
• Progressives and Obama (Part 7)