MAY 16: In this screengrab, Former President Barack Obama speaks during Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 on May 16, 2020 in, United States. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, LEBRON JAMES, KEVIN HART, THE JONAS BROTHERS, ALICIA KEYS, BAD BUNNY, TIMOTHÉE CHALAMET, DUA LIPA, MEGAN RAPINOE, YARA SHAHIDI, LENA WAITHE, PHARRELL WILLIAMS, MALALA YOUSAFZAI, ZENDAYA, AND MANY MORE APPEAR IN GLOBAL TELECAST TRIBUTE: GRADUATE TOGETHER: AMERICA HONORS THE HIGH SCHOOL CLASS OF 2020
Caption: Graduate Together: America Honors The High School Class Of 2020
XQ Institute, The LeBron James Family Foundation, 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, tonight, 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, Bad Bunny, Timothée Chalamet, Kevin Hart, H.E.R., the Jonas Brothers, Alicia Keys, Liza Koshy, Julianne Moore, Ben Platt, Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi, Lena Waithe, Olivia Wilde, Pharrell Williams, Malala Yousafzai, Zendaya, 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.
MAY 16: In this screengrab, Former President Barack Obama speaks during Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 on May 16, 2020 in UNSPECIFIED, United States. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ)
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.”
Megan Rapinoe said, “I know, first hand, the power of a movement led by and for the next generation. You are that next generation. Take the torch and leave your mark. Plant your stake in the ground, and build the future that you want and you believe in. And fight like hell to do it.” 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.” Ben Platt and his brothers Henry and Jonah Platt followed with a medley of classic hits, including Maroon 5’s “Memories,” Vitamin C’s “Graduation (Friends Forever),” Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” and the Beatles’ “In My Life.” Other highlights included Alicia Keys’ rendition of her song “Underdog”; Chika’s performance of “Crown”; and “Sometimes” by H.E.R. The show ended with an electric finale from the Jonas Brothers featuring KAROL G, singing “X.”
Additional talent who participated include Kane Brown, Lana Condor, Charli D’Amelio, Dixie D’Amelio, David Dobrik, Dolan Twins, Loren Gray, Chris Harrison, Maren Morris, and Yara Shahidi, 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.
Broadcast outlets that carried the show included ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, as well as California Music Channel, CNN, The CW, FOX Business Network, FOX News Channel, Freeform, MSNBC, and Univision— which aired a Spanish-language simulcast of the show.
ABC News Live, Bleacher Report, CBS News, Cheddar, CNN.com, CNN en Español, Complex Networks, Entertainment Tonight Live, Facebook App, FOX Now, Hulu, Los Angeles Blade, NBC News NOW, One TV, PEOPLE, Roland Martin Unfiltered, Reuters, The Roku Channel, SiriusXM’s Urban View (ch. 126), TikTok, TVOne, Twitter, USO, Washington Blade, and YouTube streamed Graduate Together. Reuters carried the show to global media organizations, and USO made the show available to every U.S. military base around the world so high school seniors and their families could celebrate their graduations alongside their stateside peers. In addition, Associated Press, Complex Networks, CNN, ESPN, Freeform, Los Angeles Blade, NowThis, PEOPLE magazine, Roland Martin Unfiltered, Univision, and Washington Blade are providing special editorial coverage of the event, and the Deaf Professional Artist Network (DPANTV) provided an official ASL version of the broadcast streamed through the XQ official YouTube feed.
Immediately following the broadcast, TikTok hosted the official #GraduateTogether After Party, featuring DJs Dillon Francis, Kitty Cash, Brittany Sky, and Victoria Monet. Tune in to @GraduateTogether on TikTok at 9 PM PT to catch part two of the special event filled with music, laughter, dance, and guest appearances from Complex’s TikTok account.
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 underresourced communities.