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Michelle Obama's 'Class Of 2020' Speaks To The Ongoing Fight Against Racial Injustice

YouTube's Dear Class of 2020 special premiered Sunday (June 7) with over 70 celebrities sharing their support and advice for students graduating this summer. In collaboration with her Reach Higher educational initiative, Michelle Obama recorded a commencement speech for viewers (found at minute 43.57). "It is an honour to be here with you to help celebrate this amazing milestone in your lives," the former first lady began.

She continued: "Graduation from college or high school is a culmination of years of hard work, so please enjoy this moment. You deserve this celebration. Congratulations." With the ongoing pandemic and fight for racial equality happening the U.S. today, Michelle told students, "this is an important time of transition," adding:

"In light of the current state of our country, I struggle to find the right words of wisdom for you today, so I am here today to talk to you, not as the former First Lady, but as a real life person, a mother, a mentor, a citizen concerned about your future and the future of our country."

A future that has been questioned and discussed over the past couple of months, as Michelle explained, "not just by a pandemic that stole too many of our loved ones, upended our daily lives and sent tens of millions into unemployment nut also by the rumbling of the age-old fault lines that our country was built on. The lines or race and power that are now, once again, so nakedly exposed for all of us to grapple with."

The Becoming author continued:

"So if any of you are scared, or confused, or angry, or just plain overwhelmed by it all, if you feel like you're searching for a lifeline just to steady yourself, you are not alone. I am feeling all of that too. I think we all are."

The recent racial injustices are sadly not an anomaly, Michelle explained. "While this period is certainly unprecedented, it is not a complete anomaly, simply some random coincidence to be dismissed. No, what's happening right now is the direct results of decades of unaddressed prejudice and inequality.

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"The truth is, when it comes to all those tidy stories of hard work and self-determination that we like to tell ourselves about America, well, the reality is a lot more complicated than that," Michelle continued. Because for too many people in this country, no matter how hard they work, there are structural barriers working against them that just make the road longer and rockier. And sometimes it's almost impossible to move upward at all."

But as Michelle noted, this graduating generation are striving for change, and continue to give her hope. "Graduates, you all are exactly what we need right now, and for the years and decades to come. You're learning so much so quickly, and I know that not only can you do better than those who came before you, you will."