Graduating in the midst of a crisis is something none of us dream of, but having a commencement speech by Beyoncé is definitely on our wish list.
During YouTube's Dear Class of 2020 special, Beyoncé came to rescue with a powerful commencement speech for this year's graduates. The singer spotlighted the Black Lives Matter movement, detailed sexism in the entertainment industry and stressed to "keep investing, and keep betting on yourself."
The Grammy winner began by congratulating the seniors, who kept going in unprecedented times: "You have arrived, here in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic and worldwide expression of outrage since this killing of yet another unarmed black human being and you still made it. We’re so proud of you."
She then mentioned the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and the worldwide movement that has started as a result: "Thank you for using your collective voice and letting the world know that Black Lives Matter. We’ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, could start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you, this new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today."
Beyoncé also emboldened graduates to give thanks to their families and communities: "You are achieving things your parents and grandparents never could imagine for themselves. You are the answer to a generation of prayers."
Though Beyoncé admits she "did not get to experience college like some of you," she says, her parents did teach her "the value of education, how to be authentic in my actions and how to celebrate individuality and the importance of investing in myself."
She also adressed those, who chose a different path: "Stepping out is the best thing you can do for self-discovery. I know how hard it is to step out and bet on yourself. There was a pivotal turning point in my life when I chose to build my own company many years ago."
Then, she continued to reveal her own struggles getting started in the music industry, her plan to establish herself navigating the male-dominated music world and the lack of opportunities that so many women and people of colour have: "The entertainment business is still very sexist. It’s still very male-dominated and as a woman I did not see enough female role models giving the opportunity to do what I knew I had to do: to run my label and management company, to direct my films and produce my tours. That meant ownership. Owning my masters. Owning my heart. Owning my future. And writing my own story."
Beyoncé also disclosed her desire to give chances to those who weren't given any and what she had to do to get there: "Not enough black women had a seat at the table, so I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table. Then, I had to invite the best there was to have a seat. That meant hiring women, men, outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlooked and waiting to be seen. Many of the best creatives and business people, who are supremely qualified and talented would be turned down over and over as executives at major cooperations because they were female, or because of racial disparity. And I’ve been very proud to provide them a place at my table. One of my main purposes of my art for many years has been dedicated to showing the beauty of black people to the world. Our history, our profundity and the value of Black lives. I’ve tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence."
The singer took a moment to motivate young women, adress the importance of vulnerability for men and stated that true success can be achieved by choosing to be yourself: "To the young women, our future leaders, know that you’re about to make the world turn. I see you. You are everything the world needs. Make those power moves. Be excellent. And to the young kings, lean into your vulnerability and redefine masculinity. Lead with heart. There’s so many different ways to be brilliant. I believe you and every human being is born with a masterful gift. Don’t let the world make you feel that you have to look a certain way to be brilliant. And no you don’t have to speak a certain way to be brilliant. But you do have to spread your gift around the planet in a way that is authentically you."
And "to all those who feel different," she acknowledged, "your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you, is beautiful. I hope you continue to go into the world and show them that you will never stop being yourself. That it’s your time now, make them see you."
Beyoncé also shifted focus to positive thinking and the power of manifestation: "Now if you’ve ever been called dumb, unattractive, overweight, unworthy, untalented, well so have I. Whatever you do, don't let negativity of people projecting their own self-doubts on you deter you from your focus. I know those moments are painful, and you're human, and it hurts like hell, but now is the time to turn those criticisms into fuel and motivation to become a beautiful beast. Respect is everything. There's no successful relationship without respect, nor a successful movement if the basic principle is not respect. The world will respect you as much as you respect yourself. I'm often asked, 'What's your secret to success? The shorter answer: 'Put in that work. There may be more failures than victories. Yes, I've been blessed to have 24 Grammys, but I've lost 46 times. That meant rejection 46 times. Please don't ever feel entitled to win; just keep working harder.'"
She touched on failure and the ups and downs of life: "Surrender to the cards you are dealt. It's from that surrender that you get your power. Losing can be the best motivator to get your even bigger wins, so never compare yourself to anyone else. There will be wins and losses, there will be tears and laughter. You'll feel the shades of life deeply. Now with success comes challenges. With your wins, you may start to notice people spending a lot of energy trying to tear you down. Try not to take it personally. Unfortunately, it's something that comes along with success. Whenever you feel like you're not in control, or the world is against you, let that vulnerability motivate you into greatness. That's how I found my true self."
Referring back to manifestation and growth, she admitted: "I remain a work in progress, and that's the beauty of growth. I've been happiest when I let go and allow life to show me the next move. When you bet on yourself, you're making an investment into your own future. When you choose to spend your valuable time thinking, speaking typing negative thoughts, you're investing in something that will give you absolutely no return on your investment. Class of 2020, every thought in your mind is powerful, every word you speak is powerful, every action you take has consequences for yourself and your community."
Beyoncé also pointed out the current events and awakening, encouraging young people to continue to take action: "Look what you've been able to do in the last 14 days. We've seen the power of collective. We've seen what happens when we join for the same cause. Please, continue to be the voice for the voiceless. Never forget we can disagree in a way that is productive to arrive at decisions that foster real change. And if you make a mistake, that's OK, too. But we all have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and change. Whatever the world looks like in 10 years, in 20 years, part of that is up to you. I urge you to let this current moment push you to improve yourself in all areas of your life: at work, at home, activism, spirituality. Wherever you can find hope, follow it. And remember you are never alone. Lean on that strength of togetherness. Keep the collective strong, stay focused."
Inspiriting graduates, the singer shared her life lesson: "Don't talk about what you're going to do. Don't just dream about what you're gonna do. Don't criticise somebody else for what they're not doing. You be it. Be about it. Be about that action, and go do it. Keep your eye on your intention. Don't let any outside distraction or your own insecurity stop you from your goals. Embrace that struggle. Surviving that struggle will strengthen you. This is a crucial time in our history and in your life" She continued to say "the earth is ripping that BandAid off so we can really see our wounds, so we can acknowledge and nurture them. That's when true healing begins. You can be that leader we all need. You can lead the movement that celebrates humanity. My prayer for you is that you invest in yourself and see the value of giving back and building your community the best way you can."
Beyoncé concluded with her wishes for the Class of 2020: "I pray that you continue to celebrate and value lives that appear different than your own. I know you are ready to start one of the most important journeys of your life. You are at the brink of a huge world shift. Look how far you've come and how much you've contributed. Keep pushing. Forget the fear, forget the doubt. Keep investing, and keep betting on yourself. And congratulations."
You can watch the full speech here: