Washington (CNN)In a nearly-four minute recorded commencement speech, former President Bill Clinton gave a hopeful and reassuring message Saturday to the millions of students graduating this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Clinton’s message aired duringCNN’s “Class of 2020: In This Together” special honoring all those students who had their graduating ceremonies canceled this spring.
“Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and all the educators, parents, friends and mentors, who have helped you reach this milestone. The coronavirus has given you a graduation you will never forget and it’s released you into an uncertain future,” Clinton said.
The former President’s address told students to embrace the changing world as the virus has upended daily life and has exacerbated inequalities facing communities of color, including immigrants, who have been among the hardest hit by the health crisis.
“I urge you to embrace the challenge. The world needs you, your country needs you. Even before the outbreak, you knew you were entering a world of growing inequalities and divisive tribalism,” said Clinton. “It’s put your future, our democracy and our very planet at risk. In ways large and small, people the world over have been urged to see life as a dog-eat-dog, zero-sum game. Someone else is winning, you’re losing. You can only win if someone else loses. It’s fun in sports but bad in an independent world.”
Clinton also thanked those on the frontline health care professionals, first responders and other essential service workers for “risking their lives to provide what we need to take care of the sick and go on with life.”
The 42nd President closed out with a reassuring message to America’s graduates, pointing to the kindness of helping out neighbors and friends at this time and supporting the work of front-line workers.
“I know you’ve been dealt a hard hand but you can play it well. With a tough but open mind, and a caring heart, you can help keep us together. Help find ways to serve others, not run away from them. Help to unite, not to divide. Help to build, not tear down. Help to support, not demean. If you do, you’ll find your own path to fulfillment and happiness, and in so doing, your example will inspire the world,” added Clinton. “Good luck and Godspeed.”
The CNN special featured Clinton, Amy Schumer, Jason Alexander, Gal Gadot, Jack Gilinsky, Henry Winkler, Alex Rodriguez, Keegan-Michael Key and Anthony Anderson with performances by Yo-Yo Ma, Bazzi and Foster the People.
CNN will then broadcast “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020,” which is hosted by The LeBron James Family Foundation, and will feature former President Barack Obama, LeBron James, Pharrell Williams, Malala Yousafzai and more. Corporate and philanthropic giving associated with #GraduateTogether will benefit DonorsChoose and America’s Food Fund.
Kate Sullivan contributed to this story.