Published 5:38 PM EDT May 15, 2020
Kirsten Bell cuts right to the chase to sum things up for the graduating class of 2020: “This blows.”
Yes, seniors across the country are sharing a collective frustration as the coronavirus pandemic has halted commencement ceremonies and graduation parties across the country.
So Facebook and Instagram stepped up to give them the celebration they deserve—complete with an Oprah Winfrey commencement address and advice from dozens of celebrities.
The star-studded virtual event, #Graduation2020, went live on Facebook Watch Friday, streaming to more than 50,000 Facebook users. Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak hosted the show which acknowledged every high school and college in every state and shared stories and inspiration from graduates, parents, principals and more.
And, of course, there were many stars you probably didn’t have at your own commencement ceremony: Winfrey, Miley Cyrus, Hugh Jackman, Sterling K. Brown, Cardi B and Awkwafina.
Winfrey called for the class of 2020 to “commence a new way forward.”
“It’s really OK to not have all the answers. The answers will come for sure if you can accept not knowing long enough to get still, and stay still for long enough for new thoughts to take root in your more quiet, deeper, truer self,” Winfrey said. “The noise of the world drowns out the sound of you. You have to get still to listen.”
She called on the newest graduating class to use the COVID-19 pandemic as motivator to “create a new and more evolved normal,” calling out inequality and injustice in our current world. She went on to recognize all the essential workers and asked graduates this question: “What will your essential service be?”
“My hope is you will harness your education, your creativity and your valor, your voice, your vote,” she said, “and use it to create more equity, more justice and more joy in the world.”
Other celebrities brought levity to the moment.
Jackman said in his message: “Listen to Oprah about everything. Just trust me on that one.” Then his second piece of advice: “Wear sunscreen.”
Bell joked to grads that they won’t remember graduation day anyways “unless you were those lucky people that gets like Ellen or Will Ferrell or Michelle Obama to speak … but if you are in the 90% of the rest of us, it was probably going to be some congressman from the ’80s with questionable views on gendered bathrooms, whose speech ends in a cliched quote from Dr. Seuss.”
She said to remember the friendship, the love and other things that coronavirus can’t take away.
Awkwafina had her own bit of advice: “Just keep on trucking. Keep on going, moving to the moon. Do not microwave metal. Not even a tiny spoon because that will pack a punch.”
Brown may have nailed it with his advice, complete with a pun: “Where you start in life does not dictate where you end up. While the circumstances of your graduation may not be ideal, you will look back on this event with the clarity of 20/20 vision and recognize it as a beautiful beginning to where you are now.
Activist Malala Yousafzai also joined the broadcast, saying that she too had her graduation plans disrupted this year due to the pandemic.
“Like all of you, I am also graduating this year, and I did not expect my university’s last few months to end like this, being at home with my two little annoying brothers,” she said. “When we go through some tough challenges, we learn from them. We learn about who we are and what we value in our life, so I’m hoping that the future will be even better, as we become more responsible people.”
Cardi B also popped in with a message for the Class of 2020. In addition to telling graduates to keep their careers in mind as they embark on the future, she also encouraged them to seize the moment of their graduation, despite the pandemic.
“Don’t let no coronavirus or no nothing take this special moment from you!” she said.
#Graduation2020 can be viewed at Facebook at facebook.com/facebookapp and on Instagram at instagram.com/instagram.
Coronavirus: Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Garner and more stars team up for virtual graduations
Contributing: Charles Trepany