"Two weeks ago, I recorded a very different commencement speech to help celebrate the wonderful accomplishment that is your graduation," Lady Gaga said during a virtual commencement ceremony on Sunday hosted by YouTube and headlined by Barack and Michelle Obama. The singer went on to explain how her original speech had reflected on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, however, it was written before the killing of George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests demanding justice and confronting systematic racism.
Gaga went on to assure graduates that although there is much to feel sorrow about at this time, there are also strides to celebrate: "You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this country's evolution. You're watching society change in a deeply important way."
Gaga then presented a metaphor to describe the nation in its current state, as well as its future: "When I think about racism in America, I imagine a broad forest filled densely with tall trees — trees as old as this country itself, trees that were planted with racist seeds, trees that grew prejudice branches and oppressive leaves and mangled roots." Gaga said, "I use the analogue between racism and nature in this country because it's as pervasive and as real as nature. It is some part of everything the light touches, but in this moment, all of us are being invited to challenge that system and think about how to effect real change."
"I can't wait to see your forest."
Younger generations, however, offer hope and the possibility for a new forest. "It is you who are the seeds of the future," Gaga said. "You are the seeds that will grow into a new and different forest that is far more beautiful and loving than the one we live in today." She later added, "I believe you beautiful seeds have been presented with a wonderful gift: the opportunity to reflect in this powerful moment on your morals, your principles, and your values, and how they will guide you through life as it presents itself . . . Congratulations to the class of 2020. I can't wait to see your forest." Watch the impassioned speech above.