Music, politics take center-stage during virtual graduations ceremony in US

By Alicia Civita

Miami, United States, May 16 (efe-epa).- With an inspiring yet brutal speech, former US President Barack Obama concluded a weekend of virtual high school graduations on Saturday that was organized by a group of arts and sports personalities.

The event was marked by speeches, emotional videos, and music for more than three million young people who were unable to have a graduation in their schools owing to the coronavirus crisis.

“This pandemic has shaken up the status quo and laid bare a lot of our country’s deep-seated problems,” Obama said in a speech broadcast on all cable news and major open television channels.

“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy – that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of the so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way – which is why things are so screwed up,” said the former president, hours after harshly criticizing the current government’s management of the outbreak.

Obama’s words concluded Saturday night’s broadcast, in which prominent personalities from the fields of music, arts, film, television, and sports sent messages of advice and congratulations to the class of 2020, made up of the first children born after the terror attack on New York City on Sep.11, 2001.

The videos of celebrities were interspersed with anecdotes of several graduates and their parents, as well as musical performances by artists such as Dua Lipa, H.E.R, the Jonas Brothers, and Karol G.

On Friday, the event transmitted on Facebook, with Oprah Winfrey in charge of the keynote address.

Saturday’s program began with words from LA Lakers basketball star LeBron James, recognizing the challenges overcome by the 17 and 18 year-olds to complete their 13 years of school education.

Guest artists also included Latinos Selena Gomez, Cardi B, Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, and Bad Bunny, among others.

Although the artists took care to comfort teenagers for having missed the opportunity to say goodbye to their schools and friends and tried to make them feel important and special, the most memorable speeches were marked by politics.

Activist Malala Yousafzai, who said she was also missing her graduation, recalled that there are thousands of girls in the world who had been denied a chance of further study because of the pandemic.

“Don’t leave them behind,” she pleaded.

The evening took on an even more political tone when the country’s women soccer team player Megan Rapinoe addressed the students. “I’m not gonna ask you to come together, I’m gonna ask you to demand better – together.”

Rapinoe, who refused to go to the White House and meet President Donald Trump last year, following the US team’s triumph at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, urged young people to vote in the presidential election later this year in November.

“For many of you, this year will be the first time you cast a ballot. I urge you not to miss the importance of who makes the decisions in times of crisis and in times of triumph,” she said.

The tone was similar to that of many of those who attended the graduation organized by Facebook, which took place 24 hours earlier.

Television star and businesswoman Oprah Winfrey asked the 2020 class to use their strength and knowledge to reinvent the country that still suffers from inequality and racism.

“This moment is your invitation to 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,” said Winfrey.

Obama captured the tone of the moment as he stressed that their generation needed to grow up faster than others and “if the world is gonna get better, it’s gonna be up to you.” EFE-EPA

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