YouTube and Facebook are competing for the most star-packed commencement, with Oprah, the Obamas, and moreMay 13, 2020
YouTube is hosting an online graduation event to give seniors whose ceremonies have been canceled something to tune into. The company announced today that it’s put together an impressive lineup of commencement speakers: President Obama, former first lady Michelle Obama, K-pop sensation BTS, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Malala Yousafzai, and Lady Gaga are all on the list to speak, among others. There will also be “special appearances” from Alicia Keys, Kelly Rowland, Kerry Washington, Zendaya, and YouTube creators like Dude Perfect and The Try Guys.
With schools shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers have been trying to figure out ways to move campus life and events online. Social media companies have been trying to get in on the game, too, knowing just how many people are stuck at home looking for things to do. TikTok held a weeklong “prom” event last month, and Instagram plans to launch graduation sticker packs and polls.
Facebook is also holding a star-studded graduation event, and it sounds like YouTube is in a battle to one-up it. Facebook’s event, announced last week, has commencement addresses from Oprah Winfrey, Awkwafina, Jennifer Garner, Lil Nas X, and Simone Biles, and there’ll be a performance by Miley Cyrus. Neither event sounds all that traditional (I don’t know many ceremonies that feature a half-dozen or more famous commencement speakers, musical performances, and special appearances), but that’s also the point. They’re just entertainment worth tuning into. Past commencement speeches have racked up tens of millions of views on YouTube, and these digital events are a chance to bring a lot more eyes to the platforms now and in the future.
YouTube’s event will be held on June 6th. YouTube plans to announce the exact schedule on May 17th, two days after Facebook holds its own ceremony on May 15th.
President Obama will also will give a commencement address to high school students in a one-hour primetime special on May 16th at 8PM ET. The special, called Graduate Together, will air on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, according to the website for the event, and will stream on Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, and other online platforms, according to an April 29th press release. LeBron James, the Jonas Brothers, Megan Rapinoe, Pharrell Williams, and others will also participate in the Graduate Together event.