Vice President Kamala Harris on Sunday applauded members of the Class of 2021 on their perseverance in earning their high school diplomas during the coronavirus pandemic, which upended classrooms and shuttered a number of extracurricular activities such as sports.
“You now know, that you have what it takes to get through pretty much anything. So when you come up against an obstacle, when you experience a setback – and you will, we all do – remember the resilience that you showed this past year. The determination. Remember, that you have the strength to get through anything,” Harris said during “Graduation 2021: A CNN Special Event” that aired Sunday night. “You do not have to get through anything alone. You are not alone. We are all in this together and when we look out for one another, everybody is better off.”
The special, hosted by CNN’s Brianna Keilar and Don Lemon, comes as many schools across the country plan virtual ceremonies for the second year in a row because of the pandemic. While some schools are finding safe ways to make sure the show goes on, others are opting for remote events once again with hopes that in-person ceremonies will return next year.
During the event, Harris also spoke with four student leaders from across the US about how proud she was of what the Class of 2021 has accomplished, telling them: “You give me such inspiration.”
“What’s up Oakland?” Harris said with a chuckle to Ahmed Muhammad, a senior graduating from Oakland Technical High School. Muhammad, his school’s first Black male Valedictorian, thanked Harris and told the vice president he included portions of her historic phrase “I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last” in his graduation speech.
“That’s exactly right, that’s exactly right. And I said that in my speech. It’s advice my mother gave me. She said you know, ‘Kamala you may be the first to be many things, but make sure you’re not the last,’ ” Harris recalled. “Sometimes you’re going to be in a room and you’re going to feel like you’re the only one like you in that room. The only one who looks like you or the only one who’s had your life experience but what I want you four to remember and you have to hear me on this, we will all be in that room with you.”
The star-studded prime-time special also included messages from Kim Kardashian West, Kristen Bell, Loren Gray, Brianne Howey, Ludacris, Candace Parker, Shaquille O’Neal, OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, Dwyane Wade, Russell Wilson, Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Alba and Addison Rae.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.