Alicia Keys Empowers "Unstoppable" Graduates in Profound YouTube 'Dear Class of 2020' Speech

YouTube Originals' 'Dear Class of 2020' special kicked off with a performance by Lizzo and an empowering speech by Alicia Keys.

By Derek Scancarelli Jun 07, 2020 7:47 PMTags
Watch: "Dear Class of 2020" Best Moments: Obamas, Beyonce, BTS & More

Schools across the world have cancelled graduation ceremonies due to safety concerns amid the Coronavirus pandemic, but on Sunday, June 7, celebrities and public figures banded together for a YouTube Original commencement special.

During the prerecorded event, 'Dear Class of 2020,' graduates could connect with up to 99 fellow classmates to experience the virtual ceremony, which featured speeches by the likes of Barack ObamaMichelle ObamaBTSLady GagaBeyoncé and more.

The commencement was kicked off by none other than Lizzo, with a little help from the New York Philharmonic orchestra. Lizzo fronted the group on flute as they performed the classic graduation walking march, which was decorated by a collage of photos showing young graduates protesting as part of the Black Lives Matter movement while dressed in their caps and gowns.

The first speaker of the event was Alicia Keys, who delivered a heartfelt and optimistic speech to students everywhere.

"Dear Class of 2020, congratulations! You've accomplished something remarkable," Keys began. "But let's be honest, it's been a hard week, and a hard month and a hard year. Right now, it may not feel like there's much to celebrate, and that's okay. It's okay to not be okay right now."

She continued, addressing the state of civil unrest in America and the protests against racial injustice worldwide.

"I know so many of you are not thinking about your time at school, you're thinking about what's happening right now in the present," she said. "You're thinking about marching and protesting and making sure your voices are heard in a time where we cannot be silent. And I feel you, so much. The world feels broken right now. It is broken right now in so many ways, but you're taking your heartbreak and your outrage and you're putting it into action and you are showing that your generation is the one that's gonna heal this. And I promise to always be by your side no matter where the fight for justice takes us next."

15 Things to Know About Alicia Keys

Keys continued, encouraging students to use their education and perspective to make the world a better place.

"The pain we're experiencing now, it's not new, but it feels different this time, right?" she asked. "I think for the first time, all of us, no matter what we look like or where we're from, we can see so clearly what injustice looks like. Now, we all can choose how to respond. The change only happens if all of us educate ourselves, if we hold each other accountable when we register to vote and make sure our voices are heard in November."

The singer encouraged for young people to approach their lives through empathy.

"When all of us recognize our biases and find ways to empathize with people that look different than us or seem different than us on the surface, that's the key right there," Keys explained. "Empathize with those that seem different on the surface. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for being the inspiration, for inspiring the world to see our collective humanity. But right now, at this moment, I hope that you can laugh, smile, allow yourself the time to reflect on all your accomplishments and all that's coming."

Keys then encouraged graduates to throw their cap—or whatever hat they had—into the air in celebration.

"You my friends, you are graduates in the most powerful time to be coming of age," she said. "And there's nothing and no one that can stop you from changing the world. I see you. You're unstoppable. We honor you and celebrate you."

YouTube's 'Dear Class of 2020' also included some specially curated moments, like a performance of U2's "Beautiful Day," produced by Finneas, featuring Leon Bridges, Camila Cabello, Noah Cyrus, Ty Dolla $ign, Cynthia Erivo, Khalid, Tove Lo, Chris Martin, and Ben Platt.

There was also a performance of civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" featuring Madison Calley, Misty Copeland, Naya Lovell, Janelle Monáe, Shonda Rhimes, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelly Rowland and Yara Shahidi.

Plus, the special was packed with appearances from JJ Abrams, Andy Cohen, Lana Condor, Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart, Queer Eye's Antoni Porowski, Keegan Michael Key, Michael B. Jordan, Jake Gyllenhaal, Daisy Ridley, Justin Timberlake, Kerry Washington, Russell Wilson and Ciara, and many more.

Watch the livestream above!