Oprah Winfrey Encourages Graduating Students to Lead: "Step Into the Unknown"

Oprah Winfrey - opening night of "Tina - The Tina Turner Musical" 2019 - Getty-H 2020
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

Awkwafina, Jennifer Garner, Usher, Hailee Steinfeld, Hugh Jackman, Kirsten Bell and Andy Cohen also appeared during Facebook and Instagram's live-stream event for the Class of 2020.

Facebook and Instagram on Friday celebrated the Class of 2020 with a graduation event streaming on both social media platforms.

Oprah Winfrey delivered the commencement speech, while many top names were in attendance — via video feed — such as Awkwafina, Jennifer Garner, Lil Nas X and Miley Cyrus, who performed an emotional track for the occasion. 

During her recorded message, Winfrey declared, "Every one of us is now being called to graduate, to step toward something, to temper the parts of ourselves that must fall away, to refine who we are." She went on to tell the graduating students, "You will lead us."

Continuing her speech, the media mogul said, "I wish I could tell you the path forward, I don’t. There is always uncertainty." She urged the students to "be at peace with the discomfort and step into the unknown."

Winfrey also talked about inequality, and how graduating students have the opportunity to use their education to create positive change. "If humanity is a global body, every soul is a cell in that body," she said. "We are being challenged to keep that global body healthy."

Toward the end of her address, Winfrey asked the students to consider what their "essential service" may be and what really matters to them. "My hope is that you will harness your education, valor, voice and vote. … Use it to create more equity, more justice, more joy in the world."

The Office alums Mindy Kaling and B.J. Novak also addressed the high school students, acknowledging that although the coronavirus pandemic has made things difficult lately, that shouldn’t a reason not to celebrate graduation.

Starting with Alabama, they went through each state and highlighted different graduates, the subjects they majored in during their studies and their plans for their future careers. There were recorded messages throughout, from people like Hailee Steinfeld and Usher. "You are the future, you are the next presidents, doctors, lawyers, musicians, athletes, and the list goes on and on and on," said DJ Khaled. 

"I know that you guys are graduating in not ideal and very unusual circumstances," said Awkwafina, who shared that she made some mistakes during her education, but that it’s okay — "Keep on truckin'," she said. "Go out and be brilliant," was the advice from Sterling K. Brown. 

"My advice to you is simple: Always make sure your breath smells good," said Andy Cohen. "Please pick a major that will be able to pay off your student loan debt," urged Hasan Minaj. "It's not the moments of achievement or recognition that stick with you, it's the getting there," said Kristen Bell, while Garner spoke about the importance of harmony, emphasizing that it creates memorable and rewarding experiences. 

Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk and Karamo Brown from Netflix's Queer Eye appeared, offering 20 positive reasons to celebrate graduation, such as "you're responsible for being the makeover the world needs right now."

Cyrus performed "The Climb," from the soundtrack of 2009's Hannah-Montana: The Movie.

"Be the class that commenced a new way forward," suggested Winfrey as she brought the event to a close. View her speech here