Obamas to headline virtual commencement events for grads

President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama will participate in multiple virtual commencement events for graduating high school and college students unable to attend in-person ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic, including a primetime event that will air simultaneously on the major broadcast networks and social media platforms.

“I’ve always loved joining commencements–the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice. Even if we can’t get together in person this year, Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones,” Mr. Obama announced in a tweet Tuesday morning.

Mr. Obama’s office said in a statement that the commencement activities will begin with a livestreamed event on the afternoon of May 16 to honor graduates of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Mr. Obama will deliver a speech for the program, which will include appearances by “a mix of celebrities, athletes and executives.”

Then, in the evening, Mr. Obama will speak with students and deliver remarks during the “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020” event, hosted by the XQ Institute, The LeBron James Family Foundation and The Entertainment Industry Foundation.

The hour-long primetime special will air on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox and feature “artists, athletes, musicians, commencement speakers, influencers, and cultural icons [who] will show their support with performances and messages featuring students, teachers, and their families from coast to coast,” according to its website.

In a tweet announcing the event, NBA star LeBron James told students they “all worked so hard the past four years and deserve the best commencement we can bring to you and your family.” James opened a school for low-income students in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, in 2018.

On June 6, YouTube will host “Dear Class of 2020,” featuring commencement addresses from both Mr. Obama and the former first lady. Other contributors to the event include activist Malala Yousafzai, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Kerry Washington.

President Trump is expected to deliver a commencement address for the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, in June. One thousand students will be brought back to the military academy to attend the ceremony, which has raised some concerns about spread of the virus and student safety.

Last week, the Army’s top leaders defended their decision to hold an in-person graduation ceremony at West Point.

“We can’t telecommute to combat,” General James McConville, the chief of staff of the Army, told reporters at the Pentagon when asked about the decision.

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