Virtual graduation: Celebs share words of wisdom to Class of 2020

OTRC logo
Friday, May 15, 2020
Robin Roberts' message to Class of 2020
In a video message, the "Good Morning America" anchor congratulated all members of the Class of 2020.

For millions of Class of 2020 members living through the coronavirus pandemic, graduation will look and feel vastly different this year.

Instead of tossing their caps, graduates have to settle for online ceremonies while their diplomas are mailed home. But at least one aspect of the traditional graduation ceremony is being salvaged: commencement speeches.

Here are some of the keynote addresses and words of wisdom shared by celebrities and other notable people:

Tom Hanks

Actor Tom Hanks, who survived COVID-19, told graduates at Wright State University that their lives will forever be divided into time before and after the coronavirus pandemic, in the same way that past generations had their lives marked by wars.

"You have finished Wright State during the great reset, the great reboot," Hanks said in a video message. "You chosen ones are going to form the new structures and define the new realities, and make the new world - the world after all that we have been through."

Hanks' message was delivered as a surprise to graduates at the Ohio school.

Pharrell Williams

Virginia's Norfolk State University surprised graduates with a virtual keynote address from singer and producer Pharrell Williams.

"Even if this is not the norm, you guys and girls still deserve all the praise," Williams said in his message. "You stuck it through, you made it and today's your day. And man, you made it at a really crazy time in life."

Robin Roberts

In a video message, the "Good Morning America" anchor congratulated all members of the Class of 2020.

In a video message, the "Good Morning America" anchor congratulated all members of the Class of 2020.

"I know how proud your families are of you, and we wanted you to know: All of us here at ABC News, we're just as proud... We cannot wait to see what the future holds for all of you," she said.

Rainn Wilson

In a video message for Texas A&M University's law school, actor Rainn Wilson told graduates he was sorry they couldn't share "big group hugs and high fives and kisses on the cheek." But he also said students can learn from that disappointment.

"It may also teach a very valuable life lesson not to take anything for granted. To know that things can and will change all the time," Wilson said. "The world out there can be incredibly difficult and fraught, and plans change all the time."

Dr. Deborah Birx

Dr. Deborah Birx, Trump administration's coronavirus response coordinator, gave a video address for New York's Houghton College. She encouraged students to be open to new opportunities but stay true to their moral selves.

"Have that strong foundation of what you believe is right, and stay on that pathway througout your careers," she said.

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban, a University of Pittsburgh graduate and Dallas Mavericks owner, gave a virtual commencement speech to his alma mater's Class of 2020.

"I know this is exactly the way your graduation would be," Cuban joked.

"But let me tell you this," he continued, "Where there is change, there is incredible opportunity. So this is your chance to take your fire, your motivation, all that knowledge you picked up at Pitt, and go out there and change the world."

Barack Obama, LeBron James, Malala Yousafzai, the Jonas Brothers and more

Former President Barack Obama will deliver a commencement address during a televised graduation special honoring the Class of 2020 on Saturday.

The one-hour special, "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020," will feature commencement speeches, performances and more.

Watch "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" May 16 at 8|7 c on ABC.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.