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Barack and Michelle Obama to deliver ‘virtual’ commencement addresses

The couple will participate in several televised/streamed events to honor America’s high school Class of 2020.

Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama appear on stage together after the Obama Foundation Summit at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2019.
Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama appear on stage together after the Obama Foundation Summit at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2019.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

With traditional graduation ceremonies across the country canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, America’s three million high school seniors are in for a special send-off thanks to Barack and Michelle Obama.

The former president will deliver a multimedia commencement address at 7 p.m. May 16 airing on all major networks and social media platforms, as part of the one-hour special event “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020,” hosted by the XQ Institute, the LeBron James Family Foundation and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.

He will be joined by high school students from the Obama Foundation’s various programs as well as Chicago Public Schools seniors and members of the Obama Youth Jobs Corps.

Also on the bill are the Jonas Brothers, Yara Shahidi, Bad Bunny, Lena Waithe, Pharrell Williams, Megan Rapinoe, H.E.R., Ben Platt, LeBron James and Malala Yousafzai.

“This high school graduation season will be anything but ordinary — but that’s all the more reason why the Class of 2020 deserves extraordinary advice, heartfelt encouragement, and hard-won wisdom about facing new challenges in an uncertain world,” said Russlynn Ali, CEO and co-founder of XQ Institute in a statement.

Former first lady Michelle Obama will be joined by her husband for another virtual commencement celebration on June 6. YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020,” live streaming at 2 p.m., will feature the former first couple delivering separate commencement addresses and joined by special guests Malala Yousafzai, Sundar Pichai, former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys and Kerry Washington.

On May 16, a two-hour virtual HBCU commencement special, “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition,” will be live streamed at 2 p.m. and will feature President Obama delivering a special message to graduates.

On Tuesday, the Obamas and LeBron James tweeted the news, with James telling the class of 2020: “You all worked so hard the past four years and deserve the best commencement we can bring to you and your family.”