Beyoncé Hopes for 'Real Change' After George Floyd's Death in Moving Commencement Speech
By Jennifer Drysdale
Beyoncé had a very poignant message for the class of 2020.
The superstar gave a moving commencement address during YouTube Originals' Dear Class of 2020 special on Sunday, praising graduates for how they've handled "arriving in the middle" of a global pandemic and moment of change for black Americans following the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
"Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black Lives Matter. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and so many others have left us all broken. It has left the entire country searching for answers. We've seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, could start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you, this new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today," Beyoncé said.
The mom of three continued, noting that no matter what your path, "stepping out is the best thing you can do for self-discovery." "I know how hard it is to step out and bet on yourself," Beyoncé said, discussing the "pivotal" moment in her life when she chose to build her own company. "I had to trust that I was ready... but that was terrifying."
"The entertainment business is still very sexist. It's still very male-dominated, and as a woman, I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to do what I knew I had to do," she shared. "Not enough black women had a seat at the table, so I had to go and chop my own wood and build my own table. Then, I had to invite the best there was to have a seat. That meant hiring women, men, outsiders, underdogs, people who were overlooked and underseen."
Bey said that it's been her mission to "show the beauty of black people to the world. ...and the value of black lives."
"I've tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may not feel comfortable with our excellence. To young women, our future leaders, know that you're about to make the world turn. I see you. You are everything the world needs. Make those power moves," she encouraged. "And to the young kings, lean into your vulnerability, and redefine masculinity. Lead with heart. There's so many different ways to be brilliant."
"To all those that feel different, if you're a part of a group that's called 'other,' a group that does not get a chance to be center stage, build your own stage. Make them see you. Your queerness is beautiful. Blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your standing, your fight for people who may be different from you is beautiful," Beyoncé said. "I hope you continue to go into the world and show them that you will never stop being yourself, that it's your time now. Make them see you."
The GRAMMY winner concluded her address by asking graduates to "continue to be the voice for the voiceless." "I urge you to let this current moment ... Remember, you are never alone. Lean on that strength of togetherness. ... Be about that action, and go do it. Keep your eye on your intention," she said.
"This is a crucial time in our history and in your life. The earth is ripping that Band-Aid off so we can really see our wounds. That's when true healing begins," Beyoncé expressed. "You can be the leader we all need."
Dear Class of 2020 was filmed over the course of the last several weeks. Its debut was shifted from Saturday to Sunday due to Floyd's memorial service. The commencement opened with Lizzo and the New York Philharmonic's performance of "Pomp and Circumstance," as well as remarks from Alicia Keys.
In addition to Beyoncé and Michelle and Barack Obama, commencement speakers include BTS, Lady Gaga, former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, CEO of Google and Alphabet Sundar Pichai, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Malala Yousafzai.