Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and the cast of Schitt’s Creek are among the stars who have offered messages of hope to young people graduating from schools and universities across America.
They joined Barack and Michelle Obama and Beyonce for YouTube’s ‘Dear Class of 2020’ virtual commencement, which was created after graduation ceremonies were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Lady Gaga revealed that she rewrote her speech after the death of George Floyd, the unarmed black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck, sparking protests around the world.
She said: “While my original commencement speech might not be directly relevant to what this country needs right now, I wish to tell you today, that although there is much to be sad about, there is much to be celebrated.
“You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this country’s evolution. You’re watching society change in a deeply important way. This change will be slow, and we will have to be patient.
“But change will happen, and it will be for the better. In rewriting my speech, I asked myself how I viewed racism in America as it relates to graduation. When I looked past the rage that I feel about the systemic oppression and physical and emotional violence that has tortured the black community endlessly, my mind turned to nature.
“When I think about racism in America, I imagine a broad forest filled densely with tall trees, trees as old as this country itself, trees that were planted with racist seeds, trees that grew prejudiced branches and oppressive leaves and mangled roots that buried and entrenched themselves deep within the soil, forming a web so well developed and so entangled that pushes back when we try to look clearly at how it really works.
“This forest is where we live. It’s who we are. It’s the morals and value system that we, as a society, have upheld and emboldened for centuries. I make this analogue between racism and nature in this country because it is as pervasive and as real as nature. It is some part of everything the light touches.
“But in this moment, all of us are being invited to challenge that system and think about how to effect real change.”
She added: “You are the seeds that will grow into a new and different forest that is far more beautiful and loving than the one we live in today.”
Perry, who is heavily pregnant, performed her latest single Daisies, as well as her older hit Firework, for the virtual ceremony.
She wrote on Instagram: “I hope in the midst of all that is happening in the world, you can take a moment to celebrate the accomplishment of graduating.
“You are the future, and I know you will take everything you’ve learned to make the world a better place. Never let em change you.”
Swift also shared a message, saying in a video tribute:, saying: “I know this is probably not the graduation you thought you were going to be having. I relate to that in a lot of ways. When I was younger I used to fantasise about high school graduation and being with all of your friends and cap and gown and the whole thing.
“Then when I got to that point in my life where graduation was coming up, I found myself on a radio tour with my mom in rental cars, sitting on the floors of airports, and I ended up being mailed my diploma.
“So it wasn’t exactly what I pictured, but I was still really proud of it.
“And I guess one good lesson to come from it is expect the unexpected, but celebrate anyway.
“I’m so proud of you guys and I hope that you have a wonderful time and are really proud of yourselves.”
Meanwhile, the cast of Schitt’s Creek, including Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Daniel Levy and Annie Murphy were joined by Mariah Carey to perform her song Hero in honour of teachers.
After the song Carey offered a particular thanks to teachers who had to put up with “students like me, who never really showed up at school on time”.