Beyoncé has turned in one of the most uplifting and inclusive graduation speeches ever as part of YouTube's "Dear Class of 2020" virtual graduation this weekend.
In a 10-minute video, Queen B offered a dizzying array of one-liner life lessons, all of which relate to her own life and success, and many of which also apply to the swell of support for Black Lives Matter that has led to worldwide, mostly peaceful, protests.
After talking about her own lack of college, but stressing that she learned to value education, the importance of authenticity, and how essential it was to invest in herself, she joked about missing the parties before launching into a collection of invaluable insights that she has gleaned ever since taking control of her own career.
Ten of her very best bits of advice:
(1) "To all those who feel different, if you are part of a group that's called "other," a group that does not get the chance to be center stage — build your own stage."
(2) "To the young women... know that you're about to make the world turn — I see you... You are everything the world needs. Make those power moves."
(3) "To the young kings, lean into your vulnerability and redefine masculinity. Lead with heart."
(4) "Spread your gift around the planet in a way that is authentically you."
(5) "Make them see you."
(6) "Stepping out is the best thing you can do for self-discovery."
(7) "You are never alone — lean on that strength of togetherness, keep the collective strong, stay focused."
(8) "Turn... criticisms into fuel and motivation."
(9) "The world will respect you as much as you respect yourself."
(10) "Don't criticize somebody else for what they're not doin' — you be it, be about it, be about that action, and go do it."
Watch the whole speech:
Other big names who took part in the YouTube special include Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Shawn Mendes, and Alicia Keys.
Taylor Swift said she was able to relate because she missed her ceremony, too. In a video, she told the graduates, “When I was younger, I used to fantasize about high school graduation and being with all of your friends and cap and gown and the whole thing. Then when I got to that point in my life where graduation was coming up, I found myself on a radio tour with my mom in rental cars, sitting on the floors of airports, and I ended up being mailed my diploma.”
She added, “So it wasn’t exactly what I pictured, but I was still really proud of it. And I guess one good lesson to come from it is expect the unexpected, but celebrate anyway. I’m so proud of you guys and I hope that you have a wonderful time and are really proud of yourselves.”
Lady Gaga revealed she rewrote her speech after the nationwide protests following George Floyd's death. She said, "You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this country’s evolution. You are watching society change in a deeply important way. This change will be slow, and we will have to be patient. But change will happen and it will be for the better."
Gaga elaborated about the systemic racism in America, saying, "I think about a broad forest filled densely with tall trees. Trees as old as this country itself. Trees that were planted with racist seeds. Trees that grew prejudiced branches and oppressive leaves and mangled roots that buried and entrenched themselves deep within the soil, forming a web so well-developed and so entangled that push back when we try to look clearly at how it really works. This forest is where we live, it’s who we are. It’s the moral and value system that we as a society have upheld and emboldened for centuries. I make this analogue between racism and nature in this country because it’s as pervasive and real as nature. It is some part of everything the light touches."
As for what needs to be done to eradicate racism, Gaga noted three things... time, sufficient effort, and divine grace. She explained, "We can control time and sufficient effort. We can’t control divine grace, but I believe divine grace is the faith we can choose to place in each other, to prosper lovingly and effectively."
Timberlake told graduates, "So 2020 decided to test you… and this is harder than any test or final you had all your life. I get it – it's not fair, it's heartbreaking, it makes you stop and think, 'Why did this happen?' I don’t have the answers, but in the face of obstacles we have the great ability to surprise ourselves with how we fight back."
Referencing the COVID-19 pandemic, Timberlake went on, "I'm speaking on behalf of the world when I say, we're impressed. Nothing — not even a global pandemic — is going to keep you from the future you make for yourself."
Justin helped open up the special, saying, "That includes me, the Obamas, Beyonce, BTS, the Obamas, Taylor Swift, Malala, Maluma, the Obamas, J.Lo and yeah, the Obamas… Life gave you lemons, so we called Beyoncé."
Alicia addressed racism, saying, "You're showing that your generation is the one that's going to heal us. I will always be by your side, no matter where the fight for justice takes us next. I think for the first time... we can see so clearly what injustice looks like and now we all can choose how to respond."
Along with stressing the importance of voting, Alicia thanked graduates for inspiring the world. She said, "Right now, at this moment, I hope you can laugh, smile, and allow yourself to reflect on your accomplishments. We honor you and celebrate you."