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I Wish Obama Spoke at My High School Graduation

Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Screenshot: YouTube

The romanticization of the high school experience is simultaneously one of my most favorite and least favorite tropes of every single coming-of-age film. On one hand, I’ll indulge in any opportunity to reminisce on my own high school experience now that the edges have been softened by a decade away, and on the other, I’m still just like, nope, it was an unmitigated hellscape and no indie-pop soundtrack is going to erase the years of mental and emotional damage inflicted on us all while trying to navigate it.

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That being said, I vaguely remember graduation being a kind of catharsis. A moment where everyone released a collective exhale and recognized that, sure, we’d all been probably not been great to each other for the last four years, but at least we survived it, and now we were all done. The class of 2020, unfortunately, isn’t set to experience that same collective catharsis, at least not in person anyway.

For most high school students, in-person classes have been canceled pretty much since spring break, and as such, most graduation ceremonies have been too. Luckily for them, dozens of celebrities have spent the last forty-eight hours trying to provide them with some semblance of a memorable graduation experience. I don’t know that watching Mindy Kailing and B.J Novak talk through extended Oscars-host-style bits for a couple of hours or hearing encouraging messages from Awkwafina, Bad Bunny, Selena Gomez, Timothee Chalamet, Jennifer Garner, Kevin Hart, Cardi B, DJ Khaled, and like, a hundred others, would have made up for not having the opportunity to feel uncomfortable standing up in front of all my peers one more time, but, I guess it wouldn’t have hurt either.

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On Friday, Facebook and Instagram streamed #Graduation2020: Facebook and Instagram Celebrate the Class of 2020, and on Saturday Lebron James partnered with the Laurene Powell Jobs’ XQ Institute and the Entertainment Industry Foundation to host Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020. Oprah gave the commencement address for Facebook while former president Barack Obama did the honors for James’ shindig. No offense to Oprah, who was wonderful as always, but Obama really took the cake with this one. His speech was engaging, poignant, and also took the requisite jabs at the current administration.

Do what you think is right. Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy, that’s how little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grownups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way, which is why things are so screwed up. I hope that instead, you ground yourselves in values that last.

Of course, no graduation ceremony is complete without some kind of intentionally sympathetic musical accompaniment. At my graduation, two seniors unironically sang “For Good” from the musical Wicked. Yes, I cried. On Facebook, Miley Cyrus unironically sang “The Climb.” And, you know what? It turns out it really is about the climb after all.

Although the class of 2020 isn’t able to get together to celebrate their accomplishments this time around, with any luck we’ll be out of lockdown in time for their 10-year reunion. That’s where most of the fun stuff happens anyway. [Variety]

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Speaking of people who are high school age, JoJo Siwa, who I honestly cannot believe is high school age, thinks everyone needs to be a whole lot nicer to Abby Lee Miller. Talking to Us Weekly, Siwa had this to say about the former Dance Moms star.

I actually talk to Abby the most out of anybody from the show. She’s great. I think Abby got hurt by a lot of people and it’s really, really, really sad that a lot of the people don’t talk to her anymore. The same thing with a lot of the producers from Dance Moms. It’s just sad because Abby really is a good person. Even though you see her yelling and screaming at children on TV, like Abby made seven stars. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for her. Maddie and Mackenzie [Ziegler] wouldn’t be where they are today without Abby.

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While listening to someone explain away verbally abusing children as a fair trade-off for making those children famous is definitely shocking, more shocking was actually listening to Siwa give the interview. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen or heard her not mostly-incoherently yelling in a cacophony of tulle and glitter, and while the signature bow was still definitely intact, it appears Siwa is growing up and not frozen in time as I’d previously thought. [Us Weekly]


Nobody does it like Naomi.

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freelance writer living in San Francisco. Please clap.

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DISCUSSION

Every living president has a moral imperative to step forth and condemn this president. Protocol be damned.