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Beyoncé Talks Respect, Failure And America's 'Racial Pandemic' In Stirring Commencement Speech

She was joined by Barack and Michelle Obama for the address.

On Sunday (June 7), former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were among a group of celebrities who virtually honored the graduating high school class of 2020.

The Obamas applauded the students for their perseverance in an academic journey made difficult in the final months by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“So these past few months you've had to reach even higher,” Michelle Obama told the graduates. “You weren't just adjusting to a virtual classroom. You were helping your teachers adjust their audio so the rest of the class could hear. You weren't just taking your finals online, you were making sure your siblings had enough time on the computer too, to do their work. And you weren't just hanging out with your friends in that group chat. You were supporting them through all this uncertainty and loss.”

She encouraged them to do a victory dance because they earned it.

“But the important thing is to celebrate,” the former president added. “Congratulations again, everybody.”

Beyoncé then delivered the main commencement address, speaking about the recent protests as well as candidly opening up about her own failures and vulnerabilities. She began by congratulating the young people for their accomplishment in the face of turmoil.

“You have arrived, here in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed Black human being. And you still made it. We're so proud of you,” she said.

The music icon also applauded those who flooded the streets to demand justice.

“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,” Beyoncé added.

RELATED: Jay- Z Issues Statement On Police Killing of George Floyd

Lizzo, accompanied by the New York Philharmonic, provided a flute rendition of "Pomp and Circumstance" for the celebration.

Other celebs slated to appear included Alicia Keys, Missy Elliott, Michael B. Jordan, Taylor Swift, and Justin Timberlake.

Here are video and transcript of Beyoncé and the Obama’s full speeches:

Barack And Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama:

Hello everybody. And congratulations to the class of 2020. This is a huge day for all of you and we couldn't be more excited to be with you today. It's very exciting. Now why you might not get the experience of sweating under your cap and gown in the hot sun, or getting embarrassed by your family yelling at your name when you walk across the stage, you still have all those people with you today. Just like they've been with you. This whole journey, rooting you on, pushing you to grow and offering you a hand if you needed it, these folks deserve your love and gratitude for helping you get here. So give them a squeeze. If they're with you right now.

Barack Obama:

— especially the dads.

Michelle Obama:

And if they're not give them a call later, that's from the moms. This is their day too.

Barack Obama:

So today is the culmination of a long journey. Think back to when you were starting your first year, you're probably just hoping that by graduation day, you would have found your people learn some new skills, got yourself ready for your next step. Maybe college, maybe grad school, maybe your first job. You accomplished all that. And then just as you were rounding the final turn, the world through a pandemic your way.

Michelle Obama:

So these past few months you've had to reach even higher. You weren't just adjusting to a virtual classroom. You were helping your teachers adjust their audio so the rest of the class could hear. You weren't just taking your finals online, you were making sure your siblings had enough time on the computer too, to do their work. And you weren't just hanging out with your friends in that group chat. You were supporting them through all this uncertainty and loss.

Barack Obama:

That's a lot to ask of anybody, but in spite of it all here you are. And we want you to know that all the work you've put in to get your education is still one of the best investments you can make. We've seen it for decades. The more education you have, the better you and your families are likely to fare. It's been born out over the past couple of months and it will be the case for years to come. So you all have done something great. Hold your heads high and celebrate.

Michelle Obama:

And go ahead and do a little dance. A cool dance just for yourself. Maybe even not so cool if you're just by yourself, embarrass yourself.

Barack Obama:

But the important thing is to celebrate. Congratulations again, everybody. And now we hope you enjoy the rest of this once in a lifetime, commencement.

Michelle Obama:

Proud of you.

Beyoncé

Thank you, President Obama and Mrs. Obama for including me in this very special day and congratulations to the Class of 2020. You have arrived, here in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed Black human being. And you still made it. We're so proud of you. 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. I did not get to experience college like some of you or the campus parties that left you struggling the next day in class, although that could have been fun, but my parents did teach me the value of education, how to be authentic in my actions and how to celebrate individuality and the importance of investing in myself.

Dear graduates, please remember to take a little bit of time to give thanks to your family members and the community, who's been such a big support system for you. You are achieving things, your parents and grandparents never could imagine for themselves. You are the answer to a generation of prayers. Now some of you might be the first in your family to graduate from college. Maybe you did not follow the path that was expected of you, and you probably questioned everything about your decision, but know that 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. There was a pivotal turning point in my life. When I chose to build my own company many years ago. I had to trust that I was ready and that my parents and mentors provided me with the tools I needed to be successful.

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 to run my label and management company, to direct my films and produce my tours. That meant ownership, owning my masters, owning my art, owning my future and writing my own story. Not enough Black women had a seat at the table. So I had to go and chop down that 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 that were overlooked and waiting to be seen. Many of the best creatives and business people, who, although supremely qualified and talented, were turned down over and over as executives at major corporations, because they were female or because of racial disparity.

And I've been very proud to provide them with a place at my table. One of the main purposes of my art for many years has been dedicated to showing the beauty of Black people to the world: our history, our profundity, and the value of Black lives. Now, I've tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence. To the 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. Be excellent. And to the young kings, lean into your vulnerability and redefine masculinity. Lead with heart. There's so many different ways to be brilliant. I believe you and every human being is born with a masterful gift. Don't make the world make you feel that you have to look a certain way to be brilliant, and no, you don't have to speak a certain way to be brilliant, but you do have to spread your gift around the planet in a way that is authentically you. To all those who feel different.

If you're a part of a group that's called “other,” a group that does not get the chance to be center stage, build your own stage and make them see you. Your queerness is beautiful. Your Blackness is beautiful. Your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you is beautiful. 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. Now, if you've ever been called dumb unattractive, overweight, unworthy untalented...Well, so have I. Whatever you do, don't let negativity of people projecting their own self doubts on you, deter you from your focus. I know those moments are painful and you're human and it hurts like hell. But now is the time to turn those criticisms into fuel and motivation to become a beautiful beast.

Respect is everything. There's no successful relationship without respect, nor a successful movement if the basic principle is not respect. The world will respect you as much as you respect yourself. I'm often asked what's your secret to success. The shorter answer: put in that work. There may be more failures than victories. Yes, I've been blessed to have 24 Grammys, but I've lost 46 times. That meant rejection 46 times. Please don't ever feel entitled to win. Just keep working harder. Surrender to the cards you are dealt. It's from that surrender that you get your power. Losing can be the best motivator to get you even bigger wins. So never compare yourself to anyone else. There will be wins and losses. There will be tears and laughter. You'll feel the shades of life deeply. Now with success comes challenges. With your wins. You may start to notice people spending a lot of energy, trying to tear you down.

Try not to take it personally. Unfortunately, it's something that comes along with success. Whenever you feel like you're not in control or the world is against you, let that vulnerability motivates you into greatness. That's how I found my true self. I remain a work in progress and that's the beauty of growth. I've been happiest when I let go and allow life to show me the next move. When you bet on yourself, you're making an investment into your own future. When you choose to spend your valuable time thinking, speaking, typing negative thoughts, you're investing in something that will give you absolutely no return in your investment. Class of 2020. Every thought in your mind is powerful. Every word you speak is powerful. Every action you take has consequences for yourself and your community. Look what you have been able to do in the last 14 days.

We've seen the power of the collective. We've seen what happens when we joined for the same cause. Please continue to be the voice for the voiceless. Never forget, we can disagree in a way that is productive to arrive at decisions that foster real change. And if you make a mistake, that's okay too. But we all have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and change. Whatever the world looks like in 10 years and 20 years, part of that is up to you. I urge you to let this current moment push you to improve yourself in all areas of your life. At work, at home, activism, spirituality, wherever you can find hope, follow it. And remember you are never alone. Lean on that. Strength of togetherness. Keep the collective strong, stay focused. Don't talk about what you're going to do. Don't just dream about what you're going to do. Don't criticize somebody else for what they're not doing. You beat be about it. Be about that action and go do it. Keep your eye on your intention. Don't let any outside distraction or your own insecurity. Stop you from your goals. Embrace that struggle. Surviving that struggle will strengthen you. This is a crucial time in our history and in your life. The earth is ripping that bandaid off so we can really see our wounds, so we can acknowledge and nurture them. That's when true healing begins. You can be that leader we all need. You can lead the movement that celebrates humanity. My prayer for you is that you invest in yourself and see the value of giving back and building your community the best way you can. I pray that you continue to celebrate and value lives that appear different than your own. I know you are ready to start one of the most important journeys of your life. You are at the brink of a huge world shift. Look how far you've come and how much you contributed. Keep pushing, forget the fear, forget the doubt, keep investing and keep betting on yourself.

And congratulations.

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