Speaking to the Class of 2020, pop star Lady Gaga admitted at the outset that the recent emergency has altered her speech. “Two weeks ago, I recorded a very different commencement speech to help celebrate the wonderful accomplishment that is your graduation. My speech at that time reflected and referenced to the shared experience of the COVID-19 global pandemic that has devastated the world this year and how important it is to be a force of kindness in the world as you take the next step forward in your promising lives,” she said.
She spoke on the issues she considered while writing her new speech. “In rewriting my speech, I asked myself how I viewed racism and America as it relates to graduation. When I looked past the rage that I feel about the systemic oppression and physical and emotional violence that is tortured the black community endlessly, my mind turned to nature. 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 prejudiced branches and oppressive leaves and mangled roots that buried and entrenched themselves deep within the soil, forming a web so well developed and so entangled that pushes back when we try to look clearly at how it really works. This forest is where we live. It’s who we are. It’s the morals and value system that we as a society have upheld and emboldened for centuries.”
The lessons she intends to impart this time are clear: “I encourage you to be kind. I do this to set the example I wish to with the tremendous privilege I have in giving you this commencement speech today…let’s also listen. If we don’t listen, we don’t learn.”