‘You are the chosen class’: The most inspiring quotes from Oprah’s virtual graduation


You get a diploma! You get a diploma! Everybody gets a diploma!

Millions of viewers tuned in Friday to watch Oprah Winfrey headline a star-studded virtual graduation ceremony for the class of 2020, whose senior year was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted by “The Office” alumni Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak, the event featured hopeful messages from Awkwafina, Jennifer Garner, Simone Biles, Selena Gomez, Cardi B, Kristen Bell, David Oyelowo, Sterling K. Brown and other entertainment luminaries.

The Facebook livestream spotlighted several proud parents, students and teachers, who congratulated one another — from their homes all over the country — on their achievements.


Oprah Winfrey, Awkwafina, LeBron James, Bad Bunny, the Jonas Brothers and others will throw virtual graduation ceremonies this weekend. Here’s how to watch.

May 15, 2020

The socially distanced festivities also included a nostalgic performance from Miley Cyrus, who sang her “Hannah Montana: The Movie” anthem, “The Climb.”

Among the famous participants were Yara Shahidi, Matthew McConaughey, Gordon Ramsay, Lana Condor, Ben Platt, Hailee Steinfeld, Diplo, Usher, DJ Khaled, Andy Cohen, Whitney Cummings, Hugh Jackman, Hasan Minhaj, the casts of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” and Disney’s “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and many, many more.

Here are some standout moments from Friday’s “#Graduation2020: Facebook and Instagram Celebrate the Class of 2020.”

Kaling and Novak poke fun at ‘Imagine’

Longtime friends Kaling and Novak kicked off the commencement extravaganza with some encouraging words — and humor — for the graduates by taking a light-hearted dig at Gal Gadot’s infamous “Imagine” video.

“Let’s actually not do that part,” Novak said, as Kaling brandished a harmonica and offered to sing the John Lennon classic. “I’m just trying to read the room here. I think the best thing we can do is actually make this all about the students.”


In March, the “Wonder Woman” actress’ well-intended celebrity karaoke rendition of “Imagine” prompted eyerolls on social media.

“OK ... I guess it’s not about me,” Kaling joked. “To all the high school and college seniors across America who worked so hard to get to this moment: This is for you.”

Awkwafina gives some practical tips

Comedian, rapper and actress Awkwafina got real for her video missive, reminding the class of 2020, “You’re gonna make mistakes.

“You’re supposed to,” she added. “That’s how ... all this works. I think one of the mistakes I made was assuming that I should have always had the answers at any given point.”

The “Jumanji” star then went on to give some extremely specific examples of her past missteps, such as microwaving a metal spoon and bleaching her hair. “We’re not always supposed to know. We’re not supposed to know today,” she said. “Our experiences will always be different from everyone else’s. Just keep on truckin’.”

Cyrus encourages grads to ‘keep climbing’

Before launching into her 2009 hit “The Climb,” Cyrus took some inspiration from the tune’s timely lyrics to address the graduating class directly.


“I’m truly honored to celebrate each and every one of you high school and college seniors and all that you’ve accomplished,” she said, standing before a virtual podium and golden “2020” balloons. “I knew I wanted to share this song with you. It feels full of a new meaning. Keep the faith. Keep on moving. Keep climbing.”

“There’s always gonna be another mountain / I’m always gonna wanna make it move / Always gonna be an uphill battle / Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose,” she later belted the familiar chorus. “Ain’t about how fast I get there / Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side / It’s the climb.”

Cardi B offers collegiate — and financial — advice

“Money” hitmaker Cardi B advised the class of 2020 to keep their financial goals in mind when transitioning to the next stage of their lives.

“Congrats and don’t let no coronavirus ... take a special moment from you,” she said. “When you go to college, I feel like they just offer you so many different classes, and it’s so fun, but it’s like, make sure that the classes you’re going to take is going to benefit you one day.

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April 15, 2020

“Make sure you research careers that is around the money that you want to make in the future. And make sure you research a career that is like OK, when I finish and I go get a job, is this job gonna help me pay my college debt? Is it gonna help me live the lifestyle that I want?”

Biles celebrates the winners

Olympic champion Biles knows a little bit about winning, and she drew on her experience as an elite gymnast to congratulate the class of 2020 on their “victory lap.”


“I know you’re missing what was supposed to be your medal ceremony but that ... doesn’t change a thing,” the gold medalist said. “You’ve already won. So today, let’s celebrate that. Let’s celebrate all the hard work it took to get here. We are so proud of everything you’ve accomplished.”

Oprah brings it home

The final speaker of the day, of course, was Winfrey, who had plenty of her signature sage advice ready for students entering a new chapter in an uncertain time.

“I know you may not feel like it, but you are indeed the chosen class for such a time as this,” she said. “Of course, this is not the graduation ceremony you envisioned. You’ve been dreaming about that walk across the stage, your family and friends cheering you on, the caps flung joyously in the air.

“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,” she said.

Later in her lengthy speech, the TV mogul urged her young audience “to stand for, to fight for and vote for healthier conditions that will create a healthier society,” in order to “create more equity or justice and more joy in the world.”

Former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will deliver commencement speeches as part of virtual graduation ceremonies for the class of 2020.

May 5, 2020

“We need you to do this because the pandemic has illuminated the vast systemic inequities that have defined life for too many for too long,” Winfrey said. “For poor communities, without adequate access to healthcare, inequality is a pre-existing condition. For immigrant communities forced to hide in the shadows, inequality is a pre-existing condition.


“For every black man and woman living in their American skin, fearful to even go for a jog,” she added, likely referring to the recent killing of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery by two white men, “inequality is a pre-existing condition.”

By the event’s end, the stream had racked up more than 6.6 million views. Watch Winfrey’s full speech above.