Oprah’s Commencement Speech to the Class of 2020: “What Will Your Essential Service Be?”

Despite the coronavirus pandemic leading to school closures and cancelled in-person graduations, there’s a silver lining for the Class of 2020. To help the graduates properly celebrate this momentous occasion—albeit at home—Oprah delivered a virtual commencement address on May 15 as part of the “#Graduation 2020: Facebook and Instagram Celebrate the Class of 2020” event.

In addition to Oprah, many other famous faces took part in the Facebook Watch ceremony, including: Mindy Kaling, Malala Yousafzai, Amy Schumer, Hugh Jackman, Gloria Estefan, Kristen Bell, Cardi B, Lil Nas X, Miley Cyrus, Simone Biles, Awkwafina, Yara Shahidi, Andy Cohen, Matthew McConaughey and more.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles cheered on all those graduating this year: “I know you’re missing what is supposed to be your medal ceremony, but that ceremony doesn’t change a thing. You’ve already won.” And Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala’s message was about responding to tough challenges:”When we go through some tough challenges we learn about who we are and what we value in our life. So, I’m hoping the future will be even better as we become more responsible people.”

What was Oprah’s message? After decades of giving inspiring speeches, Lady O was chock full of wisdom for graduates who are going off into the world during this tumultuous time.

“Of course this is not the graduation ceremony you envisioned,” Oprah began, after being introduced by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg. “But even though there may not be pomp because of our circumstances, never has a graduating class been called to step into the future with more purpose, vision, passion and energy, and hope.” While acknowledging that there’s no easy path forward and a lot of uncertainty ahead, the O of O reminded us that “it’s really okay to not have all the answers.”

Pointing out that the pandemic has exposed vast inequalities, she challenged the Class of 2020 to use their power, their voice, and their vote to help society find a new and better normal as we emerge from COVID-19. “Use your education to begin to heal our afflictions, by applying the best of what you’ve learned in your head and felt in your heart.”

Watch and read the full speech, here!

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