Graduate Together: Honoring the class of 2020

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9:15 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

Obama offers 3 pieces of advice to the class of 2020

Former President Barack Obama offered three pieces of advice to the class of 2020.

Here's his advice for the new graduates:

  1. Don't be afraid
  2. Do what you think is right
  3. Build a community
"You won't get it right every time," Obama said. "You'll make mistakes like we all do. But if you listen to the truth that's inside yourself even when it's hard, even when it's inconvenient, people will notice. They'll gravitate toward you. And you'll be part of the solution instead of part of the problem."

9:12 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

Barack Obama says class of 2020 "overcame serious obstacles"

Former President Barack Obama speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020.
Former President Barack Obama speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020. Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

Former President Barack Obama told the class of 2020 they've overcame many obstacles including illness, losing a parent or having a parent that lost a job.

"Along with the usual challenges of growing up, all of you have had to deal with added pressure because of social media, reports of school shootings and the specter of climate change," Obama said.

And as seniors were getting ready to graduate, Covid-19 struck, Obama said.

"As much as I’m sure you love your parents, I’ll bet being stuck at home with them and playing board games or watching 'Tiger King' on TV is not exactly how you envisioned the last few months of your senior year," he said.

Despite all the obstacles, Obama said the class of 2020 will continue to make him and his wife Michelle Obama proud.

"Michelle and I have made it the mission of our foundation to give young people like you the skills and support to lead in your own communities and to connect you with other young leaders around the country and around the globe," Obama said. "But the truth is you don’t need us to tell you what to do because in so many ways you’ve already started to lead. Congratulations, class of 2020. Keep making us proud."

9:06 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

LeBron James to class of 2020: "My message is stay close to home"

LeBron James speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020.
LeBron James speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020. Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

NBA superstar LeBron James told the class of 2020 "do not forget your safety net" of teachers, coaches, pastors, friends and family.

He asked the graduates to "recommit to your community

"Class of 2020, I know the last thing you want to hear right now is stay home. It's not my message to you. My message is stay close to home. Maybe not physically but in every other way possible," he said.

James told the class of 2020, "the world has changed. You will determine how we rebuild." 

8:42 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

Teachers who died during the pandemic honored tonight

Teachers who lost their lives during the coronavirus pandemic were honored during tonight's graduation special.

“Every graduate touched by them will walk forward, made strong by their wisdom. And the class of 2020 will be their living legacy," a student said as the teachers' names were displayed during the special.

In Memoriam for teachers is displayed during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020.
In Memoriam for teachers is displayed during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020. Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

8:46 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

Malala Yousafzai: "I'm also missing my graduation ceremony this year and we're not alone"

Malala Yousafzai speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020.
Malala Yousafzai speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020. Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai said she, too, was missing her graduation like the class of 2020.

"We're not alone," she said.

Yousafzai also called on graduates to remember girls all around the world who "may never return to the classroom because of this crisis."

"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," she said.

8:31 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

Megan Rapinoe asks the class of 2020 to "demand better, together"

Megan Rapinoe speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020.
Megan Rapinoe speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020. Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

World Cup champion and US women's national team soccer player Megan Rapinoe told the class of 2020, "This is your moment and unlike any we have seen before."

"The cliche would be to ask you to come together. But we aren't together," Rapinoe said.

She added: "We're separated in ways we've never experienced."

"So, I'm not going to ask you to come together. I'm going to ask you to demand better, together.

8:20 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

Kevin Hart remembers his most embarrassing moment in high school

Actor and comedian Kevin Hart reminisced about his most embarrassing moment in high school.

Hart, who was a member of the class of 1997 at George Washington High School in Philadelphia, remembered wearing his brother's shoes to school, they were too big for him.

"My most embarrassing moment in high school was when I got caught with sneakers on that were too big. I took my brother's sneakers and wore them to school and they were a size 10 and I was a size 7," Hart said. "I felt like girls would like guys with big feet. For whatever reason. Use your imagination."

8:22 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

Zendaya: "Being a senior is so much more than just your senior year"

Zendaya speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020.
Zendaya speaks during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" on May 16, 2020. Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ

Actress Zendaya told the graduating class of 2020 that being a senior was more than just your senior year.

The "Euphoria" actress said it was all about all the moments that led up to their senior year.

"I know how hard you guys are working. What make as senior? Is the traditions like proms and pranks? The start of a new chapter? Thankfully, being a senior is so much more than just your senior year. It's every moment from day you were born leading up until right now. The tiny ones, the life-changing events add up to make you the class of 2020," she said during "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020."

8:03 p.m. ET, May 16, 2020

Graduating senior whose father died on 9/11 says he wants to be "successful" like him

Ronald Milam Jr. wasn't born yet when he lost his father on September 11, 2001. His father and mother were working on opposite sides of the Pentagon that day. His father was killed and Milam was born a couple months later.

Milam said the stories he was told about his father "pushed me to do more in the classroom because I want to succeed. And I heard he was successful in the military. And I want to be successful as well."

As a high school basketball player, he wore the number 33 — the age his father was when he died. He said he wants to study pre-med at Texas Tech University and eventually become a doctor. 

"We now can take more because we've been through a whole lot as a class. Being born during the 9/11 period and graduating through the pandemic. So I feel like we don't give up that easily," Milam said.