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President Barack Obama Delivers the Commencement Address at Historically Black Hampton University

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Tucked inside the announcement that both Barack and Michelle Obama would be participating in a virtual college graduation ceremony was the nugget of inspiration that a portion of one of the online events would be dedicated to honoring graduates of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The #GraduateTogether initiative was also announced in part by LeBron James, whose eponymous charity was helping to power the mass graduation ceremony being held on the internet because of COVID-19 social distancing guidelines.

The virtual ceremonies “celebrating the class of 2020” were scheduled to held on two separate days. The first day, May 16, was slated to begin with a celebration of the nation’s HBCU graduates. “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition” was scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. While it was unclear exactly what viewers — and graduates — could expect, what was abundantly clear was that someone obviously thought it necessary to single out Black college graduates.

It was no coincidence that the Obamas were involved in that, considering the former president delivered three commencement addressed at HBCUs during his two terms in office. While he was in office, Obama issued an executive order that the official White House press release said “demonstrates the President’s strong appreciation for the historic role these institutions have played in educating our citizens and the Administration’s commitment to assisting HBCUs with accomplishing their mission.”

LeBron, for his part, doesn’t necessarily have any ties to HBCUs. But it should be noted that his son, LeBron “Bronny” James Jr., has reportedly been offered a scholarship to play basketball at North Carolina Central University, an HBCU in Durham.

Following the “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition” virtual ceremony, there will be one big high school graduation ceremony at 8 p.m., also on the 16th.

Those two events will pave the way for the grand finale of 2020 commencement addresses on June 6 which include speeches from the Obamas, pop stars BTS and Lady Gaga, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Alphabet Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

Other various celebrities were listed as making special appearances.

“This will be a moment to come together—as one nation—to applaud this rite of passage. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating the Class of 2020’s achievements,” Graduate Together wrote on its website. “We’ve been coping with this crisis together. Now it’s time to look ahead together. Let’s start by celebrating the graduates of the Class of 2020 and the pivotal role they will play in rethinking and reshaping the path forward.”

Graduate Together: America Honors the Class of 2020 will be simulcast live on major TV networks as well as on social media.


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