Graduation is a landmark event in the lives of most people, and for generations, it has been a shared one. Most Americans have had the same experience, walking across a stage set up in their school gym or on the sports field, shaking the hands of their principal and perhaps a favorite teacher, and being given a token of their hard, unpaid work. For many, it would be followed up by a party, whether at home with family and friends, or set up for them by their school’s alumni association and shared with all of their fellow new grads. Graduation has historically been social, shared, and heavily routed in community.

2020 is a little different. For reasons we all know, graduates this spring are receiving their diplomas by mail. Many are posting pictures of themselves in their robe and mortarboard at home, alone or with their immediate family. A few schools are trying to host Commencement conference calls, or drive-by ceremonies, but COVID-19 has largely stolen the community of graduation away from the class of 2020.

Media company iHeart Media, which is behind a large cohort of educational podcasts such as Stuff You Missed in History Class as well as over 850 local radio stations worldwide, did their best to help with that. On May 15, just ahead of National Graduation Day (May 17), they put up dozens of Commencement speeches by prominent names, all directed at the class of 2020. Speakers included Jimmy Fallon, John Legend, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Hillary Clinton, who broadcast from her home office in New York and spoke on kindness, gratitude, and self-reliance.

“Yes, your generation will always be remembered for graduating during a pandemic, but you’ll also be remembered for the way you responded to this crisis with resilience and creativity,” said Clinton, praising in particular the sharp rise in youth voters in recent year. Many 2020 graduates will be voting for the first time this November.

iHeart Media “Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2020” is available on all podcast platforms, as well as via YouTube and Facebook.

Image by Casimiro PT /