President Barack Obama never mentioned Donald Trump in his virtual Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020 commencement speech tonight, but it was clear to everyone in coronavirus lockdown and elsewhere that he was throwing shade and throwing down the gauntlet to his successor – for the second time in less than 12 hours.
“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy, that’s how little kids think, Obama told a multi-network and multi-digital platform audience of millions of high school seniors who won’t have an in-person graduation this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grownups with fancy titles and important jobs still think that way,” the former POTUS added in this time of economic near collapse and “mass uncertainty” because of the public health crisis.
“That’s why things are so screwed up,” Obama said, noting the flailing response and financial free fall to the fatal virus “pulled back the curtain” and has “laid bare a lot of our country’s deep-seated problems. In another comment that sounded like a jab at the notoriously self-absorbed Trump, Obama went on to point out that in his view “our society and our democracy only work when we think not just about ourselves, but about each other.”
“It’s woken a lot of young people up to the fact that the old ways of doing things, just don’t work,” the former leader of the free world stated of the consequences of coronavirus before taking another swing at the unmentioned Trump for not only not having “all the answers” but “not even asking the right questions.”
Even as many states begin to reopen from shelter-in-place orders, COVID-19 has claimed over 90,000 American lives in the past few months. As the Trump administration has stumbled repeatedly and now is pointing fingers at the Obama administration for alleged empty stockpiles, there have been more than 1.5 million confirmed cases of the respiratory disease around the country so far – with worries another deadly wave could come later this year.
Noting the “usual pressures of growing up,” self-described “old guy” Obama shifted into his once familiar wordsmith optimism and told the grads watching “not to be afraid” and that they “could make things better” if they were “part of the solution, instead of part of the problem”
He also listed off the contemporary challenges of “social media, reports of school shootings and the spectre of climate change.” Then, with an aside to Netflix’s very well watched Tiger King and being stuck under the same roof as your parents due to stay-at-home orders, POTUS 44 added, “just as you’ve been looking forward to proms, senior nights, graduation ceremonies and let’s face it, a whole bunch of parties, the world is turned upside down by a global pandemic.”
In calling out what he sees as the lack of leadership on the part of Team Trump, Obama was the headliner tonight for Graduate Together, but the one-hour event was packed with marquee names.
Strolling through a virtual environment of high school seniors, LeBron James kicked things off with a “thank you” to this year’s grads for their “sacrifice” during this stay-at-home time and a declaration that “there is no doubt in my mind that the class of 2020 is going to be something special”
As well as President Obama and the NBA legend, the pre-recorded Graduate Together also featured a ton of grads from across the nation, a “who is leading matters” proclaiming Megan Rapinoe, Shaquille O’Neal, Zendaya, Brandan Bmike Odums, National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson, Kumail Nanjiani, Lena Waithe, Ben Platt, and self-described “global citizen” Yara Shahidi. Also on board was Nobel Prize winner Malala, Olivia Wilde, Pharrell Williams, Bad Bunny, Kevin Hart (who gave a shout out to the public school system and his “guys” L.J. and B.O.), H.E.R., the Jonas Brothers featuring KAROL G, Alicia Keys, Timothée Chalamet and Lana Condor, among others.
— ABC News (@ABC) May 17, 2020
The refreshingly fast-paced remote ceremony was put together by the XQ Institute, The LeBron James Family Foundation, and The Entertainment Industry Foundation and supported by American Federation of Teachers. In what has become a common occurrence in these coronavirus lockdown times with remote benefit concerts and more, Graduate Together was shown live at 8 PM ET on CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC, YouTube, TikTok, Facebook, California Music Channel, ESPN, The CW, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Twitter, Freeform, MSNBC, Univision and over a dozen other outlets and platforms.
As widely seen and wide reaching as Graduate Together was, it wasn’t the only show in town or online for the millions graduating without the right of passage of a graduation ceremony this year.
Earlier in the day, a “divisive tribalism” warning ex-President Bill Clinton, the Fonz himself Henry Winkler, Seinfeld star Jason Alexander, Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals and others also gave remote remarks and “congratulations” to the “amazing” graduating class of 2020.
Even earlier than that on Saturday, Obama himself went online to the grads of historically black colleges and universities in a speech that ripped the “folks in charge” AKA Trump and his administration over their widely criticized fumbling of the COVID-19 crisis. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge,” POTUS 44 shrived POTUS 45, who has started peddling a flimsy “Obamagate” national security scandal in an effort to shift focus away from the ongoing pandemic.
Undoubtedly the ex-Celebrity Apprentice host will respond on social media and through his surrogates of sorts at FNC. Yet, with the 2020 election shaping up to be a bare knuckles clash and the suddenly more engaged former POTUS obviously playing a big role in trying to get his VP Joe Biden elected, Obama looks to get the last word in the commencement battle. Obama is already schedule hit the virtual stage with former First Lady Michelle Obama and Lady Gaga, at June 6’s Dear Class of 2020 YouTube Originals’ virtual commencement event.
No word on if any major school or organization has asked Trump to talk to them for the grads of 2020.