The LeBron James Family Foundation, XQ Institute, and The Entertainment Industry Foundation paid tribute to high school seniors nationwide in a one-hour multimedia special event, Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020, on Saturday, May 16. President Barack Obama delivered a commencement message during the historic special that also featured an impressive lineup of prominent leaders, educators, and entertainers, including LeBron James, Kevin Hart, H.E.R., Alicia Keys, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe, Pharrell Williams, Zendaya, Liza Koshy and more. More than 40 broadcast and cable networks and online streaming channels throughout the U.S. and across the world carried the commercial-free program. The commencement special honored the more than 3 million high school seniors across the nation whose final weeks of high school, including graduation ceremonies, were postponed or canceled due to COVID-19.
President Obama said, “With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you ‘no, you’re too young to understand’ or ‘this is how it’s always been done.’ Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape.”
He was also joined by several high school students who are part of the Obama Foundation’s work to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world, including seniors from Chicago Public Schools and members of the Obama Youth Jobs Corps, a program created in partnership with Urban Alliance. As part of its mission, the Obama Foundation is focused on engaging, training, and supporting the next generation of leaders to create positive change in their communities.
LeBron James said, “Pursue every ambition, go as far as you possibly can dream, and be the first generation to embrace the new responsibility—a responsibility to rebuild your community. Class of 2020, the world has changed. You will determine how we rebuild, 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.”
Malala Yousafzai said, “The Class of 2020 won’t be defined by what we lost to this virus, but by how we responded to it. The world is yours now, and I can’t wait to see what you make of it.”
The program also highlighted some of the nation’s exceptional high schoolers working tirelessly to affect change both in their communities and on a larger scale as well as some of the country’s most influential teachers including National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson, who teaches social studies and history at Virgie Binford Education Center in Richmond, Virginia.
The celebration featured specially curated performances from Grammy and Tony Award-winning artists to Billboard chart-toppers. Following a touching performance by a nationwide high school student choir singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Dua Lipa opened the show with her song “Break My Heart.” Highlights included Alicia Keys’ rendition of her song “Underdog” and “Sometimes” by H.E.R.
Additional talent who participated included Yara Shahidi, Kane Brown, Lana Condor, Charli D’Amelio, Dixie D’Amelio, David Dobrik, Dolan Twins, Loren Gray, Chris Harrison, and Maren Morris, all of whom shared messages celebrating the Class of 2020 and their accomplishments, with hope and excitement for their collective future.
As part of the celebration, high school seniors from across the country submitted portraits to the largest-ever high school yearbook. Created by renowned artist JR and his participatory art project Inside Out, the project offers graduates a place to share their portraits and stories while making a collective statement.
Immediately following the broadcast, TikTok hosted the official #GraduateTogether After Party, featuring DJs Kitty Cash, Brittany Sky, and Victoria Monet.
Corporate and philanthropic giving associated with #GraduateTogether will benefit DonorsChoose and America’s Food Fund to help meet student needs in some of our nation’s most underserved and under-resourced communities.