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Beyoncé Has A Message For Young Graduates: “Real Change Has Started With You”

Beyoncé gave one of many commencement speeches at a star-studded virtual event for 2020 graduates.

Beyoncé delivered an inspiring speech over the weekend to 2020 graduates finishing school during a crisis, telling them, “Real change has started with you.”

As part of YouTube's "Dear Class of 2020," on Sunday, the artist and advocate delivered an address to high school and college graduates, many of whom have been outspoken in their demands for justice following the killing of George Floyd.

“Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black lives matter," she said. “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 talked about starting her own management company Parkwood Entertainment in 2010, and the sexism she has faced in the music industry. She also spoke about the importance of rejection, nodding to her own 24 Grammy wins out of 70 nominations.

“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,” she said. “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."

The coronavirus, which has infected over 1.9 million people in the U.S. including more than 110,000 deaths, has forced the cancellation of high school and college graduations around the country. To help seniors celebrate while social distancing, many star-studded virtual ceremonies have been held.

In addition to Beyoncé, YouTube’s virtual commencement ceremony featured former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, who gave separate addresses. 

Other prominent guests included BTS, Lady Gaga, and the Schitt's Creek's cast, whose commencement performance of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” included a surprise appearance by Carey herself. 

Over the years, Beyoncé has integrated her activism into her music career. Her 2016 “Formation” music video depicted Black culture in ways not often seen in mainstream music, like showing Black women wearing natural hair and the line “I got hot sauce in my bag.” It also made allusions to police brutality and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Her 2016 Super Bowl halftime performance also featured outfits that were reminiscent of how members of the Black Panther Party dressed in the 1960s.

“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,” she said in the commencement address. “I pray that you continue to celebrate and value lives that appear different than your own.”