This Year's Best Virtual Celebrity Commencement Speeches That'll Give You Hope for the Future

Tom Hanks, Matthew McConaughey and more stars have lent their voices to celebrate the class of 2020

Barack Obama
Barack Obama. Photo: Getty Images

No one could've predicted that the class of 2020 would have to trade their in-person graduation ceremonies for livestreams and Zoom calls. However, this year's graduating class has pioneered the world's new normal by triumphantly finishing their academic year at home, and that's something to be extremely proud of.

To help celebrate and uplift all graduating students across the country for their ability to adapt and thrive during these unprecedented times, A-list stars have rallied to salute young people's efforts and offer them important pieces of advice as they enter the next phases of their lives.

President Barack Obama

While the former president knows how devastating it is for students who've had to miss out on senior nights, proms and graduation ceremonies, he also knows that the future is bright for these young adults, as they prepare to forge their ways as leaders in a post-COVID world.

He concluded his powerful message to the class of 2020 by saying, "With so much uncertainty — when everything is suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation's world to shape."

Tom Hanks

Hanks honored the students at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, by acknowledging that many things may feel uncertain right now but "we are certain of one thing on this day: You will not let us down."

Matthew McConaughey

McConaughey appeared on Good Morning America to send a positive message to the students of Urban Assembly School for Emergency Management, most of whom will enter the world as first responders during the pandemic. He congratulated their accomplishments and suggested that they see their unconventional start to life post-school as "a badge of honor" as they join others on the frontlines.

Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey asked the "chosen class" of 2020 if they can "use the disorder that COVID-19 has wrought" to "reorder our way of being." She challenged them to use this time to help rebuild a world that is more beautiful, just and kind. She powerfully ended her impassioned speech by simply saying, "Be the class that commenced a new way forward."

Ashton Kutcher

Kutcher spoke candidly to the students of the University of Iowa, his alma mater, to let them know that the key to achieving everything you want in life is to do away with all of your set expectations. Having the "willingness to throw out the master plan" will make more room for you to explore what you want, without being bound to what you think you're supposed to be doing to get there.

Miley Cyrus

Before Cyrus put on a powerful performance of "The Climb," she shared a sweet and short message to everyone watching: "Keep the faith. Keep on moving. Keep climbing."

Lizzo, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey & More

As part of YouTube's "Dear Class of 2020," which was held on Sunday, June 7, celebrities — from Lizzo to Taylor Swift — shared messages of hope and congratulations to recent graduates. You can watch the star-studded commencement ceremony, including all of the powerful speeches and performances, in its entirety here.


As part of YouTube's "Dear Class of 2020," Beyoncé offered her own words of encouragement and inspiration, saying, "You have arrived here in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed black human being. And you still made it. We’re so proud of you."

Katy Perry

Mom-to-be Katy Perry kicked off the tassel-turning moment for grads across the country and put on a special performance of her latest hit "Daisies." Wearing a bump-hugging white gown and donning Marilyn Monroe-esque hair and makeup, Perry began her performance from behind a silver metallic fringe curtain wall. As she sang the song's lyrics, which are all about going for your dreams, the camera followed her closely across the room.

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