the words of Tim Cook, Barack Obama, LeBron James and other leaders


Barack Obama during a speech at a graduation ceremony (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / Getty Images)

Susan Adams article appeared on

When you can not do things with great pomp a what circumstances can a graduation ceremony look like? This is the question that countless high schools and colleges across America have had to answer this year because of the global pandemic. So teachers, parents, students and leaders have devised a series of creative and in any case significant celebrations for the 2020 Class.

In Walhalla, South Carolina, the lampposts on Main Street were decorated with banners depicting the portraits of 257 past graduates. For students of North Salem High School in New York, the graduation ceremony will take place in a drive-in cinema next month. And what better way to celebrate class at Speedway High School than to cross the finish line at the nearby Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the 500-mile Indianapolis race is run.

In addition to all the celebrations, some of America’s most inspiring politicians, business leaders, actors, athletes and musicians have come forward to offer words of encouragement and support in speeches to this year’s graduates, broadcast in streaming during virtual ceremonies, via podcasts, on social media and on television.

Here are some pieces of wisdom for the 2020 Class …

“> Oprah Winfrey (show character and philanthropist)

Can you, class 2020, show us not how to put the pieces back together, but how to create a new, more evolved normality, a more just, kind, beautiful, tender, bright, creative world? We need you to do it because the pandemic has shed light on the great systemic inequalities that have marked too many lives for too long.

For poor communities without adequate access to healthcare, inequality is a pre-existing condition. For immigrant communities forced to hide in the shadows, inequality is a pre-existing condition. For imprisoned people, with no possibility of social distancing, inequality is a pre-existing condition. For every person affected by partiality and fanaticism, for every black man and woman who lives in his American skin, even afraid of jogging, inequality is a pre-existing condition.

You have the power to fight and vote for healthier conditions that will create a healthier society. This is an invitation to you to use your training to start healing our afflictions, to apply the best of what you have learned in your head and felt in your heart.

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