Obamas, Lady Gaga, LeBron James join forces for U.S. virtual graduations

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Former U.S. President Barack Obama, Lady Gaga, LeBron James and K-Pop band BTS are among dozens of celebrities and world leaders who will salute the class of 2020 in virtual U.S. graduation ceremonies replacing the traditional end of high school and college.

Obama, with his wife Michelle, will headline two separate graduation events announced on Tuesday.

In a one-hour multimedia event called “Graduate Together,” to be broadcast on May 16 across multiple TV networks, Obama will deliver a message to high school seniors and reflect on the coronavirus pandemic.

In a separate YouTube event called “Dear Class of 2020,” to be hosted by Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative and streamed on June 6, the former president will join with the likes of Pakistani Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, BTS and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in celebrating graduates across the United States.

Others taking part in the two events include U.S. women’s soccer player Megan Rapinoe, the Jonas Brothers, musician Bad Bunny, Alicia Keys and Alphabet and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai.

Schools and colleges shut down across the United States in mid-March because of the coronavirus epidemic, robbing students of milestone events and speeches in May and June marking the end of their formal education.

President Donald Trump said last month that he plans to deliver the commencement address in person for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, on May 23.

The White House on Tuesday did not immediately respond to a request for information on plans by other administration officials, but Vice President Mike Pence last month attended a U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony in Colorado Springs where cadets sat eight feet (2.4 meters) apart.

Other virtual events on offer include a podcast called “Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2020” on May 15 in which Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Fallon, John Legend and Eli Manning will be among some two dozen personalities offering words of wisdom to graduates.

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