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Lady Gaga had some impassioned words for graduates during YouTube’s virtual Dear Class of 2020 commencement celebration Sunday.
Gaga began by saying she recorded a different commencement speech that “reflected the shared experience” with COVID-19 that the class of 2020 has had. After George Floyd was murdered, though, she realized that she had much more to say about the Black Lives Matter movement and protests.
She began, “My speech was recorded before the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent activist movement … while my original commencement speech may not be directly relevant to what this country most needs right now, I wish to tell you today that though there is much to be sad about, there is also much to be celebrated. You are watching what is a pivotal moment in this [country’s] evolution … change will happen and it will be for the better.”
Gaga went on to illustrate a metaphor of American society as a forest: one that was planted with racist seeds that grew discriminatory branches and leaves over the years. “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 for centuries,” she said.
“But we are being invited to challenge that system,” Gaga continued. “I believe in my heart that the people who are going to make this change happen are listening to this speech right now. You are the seeds that will grow into a new and different forest that is far more beautiful [than the one we live in right now].”
“Your morals, principles and values, I strongly believe now, must be sincere and authentic to you. Your principles must come from your heart,” Gaga said. “Your values must come from your brain. Morals must be derived from the whole you that you contribute lovingly to humanity.”
Our forest, Gaga, explained, is subject to rebirth. “People can do hard things. You can do hard things,” she said. “You can rip up and replant the forest to be a vision only you have.”
Finally, Gaga invited everyone watching to practice kindness. “I encourage you to be kind … when I include that bit about kindness, that’s me making sure during this moment that I am equipped with my morals, values and principles for a very important topic,” she said. “What do we do now? My answer of ‘kindness’ is simple, but it’s mine. Let’s talk. But let’s also listen. If we don’t listen, we don’t learn.”
“Congratulations to the class of 2020,” Gaga concluded. “I can’t wait to see your forest.”
Watch the clip of Lady Gaga’s commencement speech below.
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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