Barack Obama

Barack Obama Tells Graduates They’ll ‘Have to Grow Up Faster’

"With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you 'no, you're too young to understand'"

In this Dec. 13, 2019, file photo, former U.S. President Barack Obama attends a plenary session of the Gathering of Rising Leaders in the Asia Pacific, organized by the Obama Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
AP Photo/Vincent Thian

Former President Barack Obama delivered a virtual commencement address to high school graduates Saturday night encouraging them to use the current situation to their advantage.

Obama told students that graduating high school is a big achievement outside of a global pandemic, especially in a generation with added pressures of social media, reports of school shootings and rapid climate change.

"Just as you're about to celebrate having made it through, just as you've been looking forward to proms and senior nights, graduation ceremonies -- and let's face it, a whole bunch of parties -- the world turned upside down," Obama said.

The former president said the graduates will likely move on from missing an in-person celebration because the important fact is this graduation marks the passage into adulthood.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Obama said first college semesters or first jobs are not guaranteed for current high school graduates meaning they will need to "grow up faster than some generations."

Obama left graduates with three pieces of advice: don't be afraid, do what you think is right and build a community.

"If you listen to the truth that's inside yourself, even when it's hard, even when it's inconvenient, people will notice. They'll gravitate towards you," Obama said. "And you'll be part of the solution instead of part of the problem."

At the end of the program, the former president mentioned his and Michelle Obama's foundation, The Obama Foundation, as a platform for young people to aid in building their community.

NBA star LeBron James hosted the television special "Graduate Together," featuring other big names such as Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and comedian Kevin Hart as well as artists like Alicia Keys and the Jonas Brothers.

Both Barack and Michelle Obama will deliver a virtual commencement to students on June 6 at 2 p.m. for YouTube's "Dear Class of 2020" celebration.

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