These are the 10 most uplifting commencement messages celebrities and icons from Oprah Winfrey to Tom Hanks gave the class of 2020

Wright State University/YouTube; FacebookIn separate speeches, Tom Hanks and Oprah Winfrey both referred to the class of 2020 as the ‘chosen’ class of graduates.
  • In light of the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s graduating class of 2020 missed out on traditional milestones like prom and physical graduations.
  • They also face a grim economy, with many of them losing jobs and internships as well as summer plans.
  • To uplift and instill hope in this year’s graduates, speakers like Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks have shared motivating messages for remote commencement events.
  • Actors and entertainment icons like Cardi B, Matthew McConaughey, and Awkwafina also offered advice for soon-to-be graduates along with inspirational leaders like educational activist Malala Yousafzai, and US Olympic athlete Simone Biles.
  • Keep reading for a selection of messages from leaders and stars for this year’s graduates.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.


“I know you may not feel like it, but you are, indeed, the chosen class for such a time as this,” Oprah Winfrey said in a moving speech shared on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook/InstagramOprah Winfrey’s speech was broadcast on Facebook and Instagram on May 15.

“I know you may not feel like it, but you are, indeed, the chosen class for such a time as this, the class of 2020,” Winfrey said, opening her commencement speech. “You’re also a united class, the pandemic class, that has the entire world striving to graduate with you.”

She continued: “Even though there may not be pomp because of our circumstances, never has a graduating class been called to step into the future with more purpose, vision, passion, and energy and hope.”

“I wish I could tell you I know the path forward, I don’t. There is so much uncertainty,” Winfrey said.

“In truth, there always has been. What I do know is that the same guts and imagination that got you to this moment, all those things are the very things that are going to sustain you through whatever is coming. It’s vital that you learn, and we all learn, to be at peace with the discomfort of stepping into the unknown,” the host continued.

“It’s really OK to not have all the answers,” WInfrey said. “The answers will come for sure if you can accept not knowing long enough to get still and stay still long enough for new thoughts to take root in your more quiet, deeper, truer self. The noise of the world drowns out the sound of you. You need to get still to listen.”


Watch Oprah Winfrey’s full speech here.


In a recent commencement speech, Tom Hanks also called this year’s graduates “chosen ones.”

Wright State University/YouTubeThe actor addressed Wright State University graduates in a touching video.

“Congratulations to you, chosen ones,” Hanks said in his commencement speech for graduates of Wright State University in Ohio earlier in May. “I am calling you ‘chosen ones’ because you have been chosen in many ways.

“First, by the temperament and discipline you’ve lived by, by the creative fires that are inside of you, and the instinctive lunges of your desires,” Hanks said.

Hanks continued: “The future is always uncertain, but we who celebrate what you have done, who celebrate all of your achievements, we are certain of one thing on this day: You will not let us down.”


Watch Tom Hanks’ full speech here.


Education activist Malala Yousafzai, who’s graduating from Oxford University, shared words of wisdom to fellow graduates.

FacebookMalala Yousafzai addressed her fellow graduates.

“Like all of you, I’m also graduating this year, and I did not expect my university’s last few months to end like this – being at home with my two little annoying brothers,” Yousafzai said in a Facebook and Instagram video address.

“I know that we are heading into an uncertain future, and everyone says that things will not be the same as they were before, but I know they will be better, because when we go through some tough challenges we learn about who we are and what we value in our life,” Yousafzai said. “So, I’m hoping the future will be even better as we become more responsible people.”

“I’m so excited about all of you who are graduating, and I wish you good luck in everything that you do.”


Watch Malala Yousafzai’s full speech here.


Olympic gymnast Simone Biles said to this year’s graduates: “You’ve already won.”

FacebookGymnast Simone Biles offered words of wisdom to graduates.

“As an athlete, there is nothing quite like the bus ride home after a win. You’re exhausted and could probably use a shower,” Biles said in her speech for Facebook and Instagram. “But bottom line, you’re happy.”

“Well, graduates, today is your bus ride home. Your victory lap. It is our chance to tell you that we know how hard you worked to bring home that diploma. I know you’re missing what is supposed to be your medal ceremony, but that ceremony doesn’t change a thing. You’ve already won,” the Olympian said in her address.

“We are so proud of everything you’ve accomplished,” Biles said. “You did it.”


Watch Simone Biles’ full speech here.


“It’s more than a diploma,” Cardi B told graduates. “It’s knowledge, it’s knowing that you did it.”

FacebookCardi B shared advice for recent graduates.

“I just want to say congrats to all my high school and to all my college graduates,” Cardi B said in her video address for Instagram and Facebook. “Congrats congrats congrats! And don’t let no Coronavirus, no nothing, take this special moment from you.”

The singer also shared her advice to college-bound students.

“When you go to college, they just offer you so many different classes, and it’s so fun, but make sure the class you’re going to take is going to benefit you,” Cardi B said.

She continued, offering a message for college graduates: “I also want to tell you guys it’s more than a diploma, it’s more than graduation, it’s knowledge, it’s knowing that you did it.”

“Now you’re about to start your life,” Cardi B said. “You’re about to make some money, you’re about to show your skills on what you worked for.”


Watch Cardi B’s full speech here.


“Live in a way now where you can look back later and say ‘I think I handled that pretty well,'” Matthew McConaughey said in his address to the class of 2020.

FacebookMatthew McConaughey told graduates to embrace being original.

“You are originals! Enjoy that,” McConaughey said in his Facebook and Instagram video message to graduates.

“The big learning is coming in the future for you, I promise, the experiential learning where you get to put what you learned in school to test,” he said. “This is when it gets fun. This is when it gets hard.”

“Don’t bother yourself too much if you’re not quite sure what you want to do in life,” McConaughey said. “I’m 50, I have many days where I’m still not quite sure what I want to be. But I work on it, I stay in the process.”

“Live in a way now where you can look back later and say ‘I think I handled that pretty well.’ Congratulations, self,” the actor concluded his speech.


Watch Matthew McConaughey’s full speech here.


Sterling K. Brown said that he hopes graduates will “look back on this event with the clarity of 20/20 vision and recognise it as a beautiful beginning.”

FacebookSterling K. Brown gave a powerful message to the class of 2020.

“All your hard work has finally paid off and you’re moving on to the next phase of your education, or for some of you, into the real world,” Brown said in a Facebook and Instagram commencement video. “Where you start in life does not dictate where you end up.”

“And while the circumstances of your graduation may not be ideal, you will look back on this event with the clarity of 20/20 vision and recognise it as a beautiful beginning to where you are now,” the actor continued.

“Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose. A little ‘Friday Night Lights’ for you,” Brown said. “Go out and be brilliant.”


Watch Sterling K. Brown’s full speech here.


“Keep on trucking,” said actress Awkwafina, who joked that her other piece of advice was to never microwave metal — “not even a tiny spoon.”

FacebookAwkwafina addressed the class of 2020 with a humorous speech.

“I know that you guys are graduating under very unusual and not ideal circumstances, but you guys made it. And making it is not always an easy thing to do,” the actress and comedian said in her speech to the class of 2020.

“I was one of those students who was always kind of barely making it. I think I did summer school for gym,” Awkwafina joked.

“Some other tips and advice I can give you: Just keep on trucking, keep on going, move in to the moon, do not microwave metal, not even a tiny spoon,” she said.

The “Crazy Rich Asians” actress ended her speech by saying: “You’re great, you made it, I love you.”


Watch Awkwafina’s full speech here.


“Keep the faith, keep on moving, keep climbing,” Miley Cyrus said, referencing her famous song “The Climb” in her address to the graduating class.

FacebookMiley Cyrus addressed the graduating class.

“I’m truly honoured to celebrate each and every one of you high school and college seniors and all that you’ve accomplished,” Cyrus said in her Facebook and Instagram video.

“As I was thinking about you, the class of 2020 and how you inspire me, I knew I wanted to share this song with you. It feels full of a new meaning. Keep the faith, keep on moving, keep climbing, here’s ‘The Climb.'”


Watch Miley Cyrus’ full speech here.


“Listen to Oprah,” said Hugh Jackman in a video for the class of 2020.

Facebook/Hugh JackmanHugh Jackman shared sage advice for graduates.

“To the graduating class of 2020, congratulations. I have one major piece of advice for you: Listen to Oprah. About everything,” Jackman said in a Facebook video shared Saturday.

The actor known for “The Greatest Showman” added: “And one more thing. Wear sunscreen. I mean it.”


Watch Hugh Jackman’s full video here.

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