#Graduation2020: Oprah referencing Ahmaud Arbery asks ‘pandemic class’ to rid world of systemic inequities

Calling Covid-19 an uninvited guest that had reordered our ways of being, Oprah asked the class of 2020 not to put the pieces together but find a way to "create a new, more evolved normal"


                            #Graduation2020: Oprah referencing Ahmaud Arbery asks ‘pandemic class’ to rid world of systemic inequities
Oprah Winfrey (Getty Images)

Wow Oprah, talk about laying on the pressure on a bunch of 20-year-olds. Does she not know what the words "chosen" one means to the post Harry Potter generation?  But in the celeb-studded Facebook-Instagram event to honor the graduating class of 2020, Oprah minced no words about how the world was depending on them to take charge.

Calling them the "chosen class", she said that they were also a "united class, the pandemic class, that has the entire world striving to graduate with you.”  So even though the pomp was missing, she insisted that never had a graduation class been asked to step into the future that was unknown "with more purpose, vision, passion, energy, and hope".

Calling Covid-19 an uninvited guest that had reordered our ways of being, Oprah asked the class of 2020 not to put the pieces together but find a way to "create a new, more evolved normal". While she said her "essential service" to the world was "talking and sharing stories", the graduating class had to figure out what their "essential service" to themselves, their community, and the world was going to be.



 

Most of these fresh graduates might want to jump on to that "talking and sharing stories" bandwagon too. After all, the "essential workers" that Oprah gave a shout out before she asked graduates about their contribution to society are all working in underpaid or high-risk sectors. You know like nurses, old age home caregivers, teachers, truck drivers, grocery stackers and cashiers, and cleaners -- the ones who don't have a choice but show up to work to keep paying their bills. 

Going on a more political tangent, she said the pandemic had illuminated "systemic inequities" that had defined life for too many and for too long. She highlighted the plight of poor communities with no access to healthcare, immigrant communities forced to hide, incarcerated men and women who did not get the luxury of social distancing and Black American men and women who couldn't even go out for a jog -- referencing the Ahmaud Arbery killing.  

In the most practical advice she doled out in her five-minute speech, she said graduates had the "power to stand for and vote for conditions to create a healthier society". In short, she repeated what Obama had already said in his one-word tweet, "Vote," so that the "chosen ones" among the elected can help the "chosen ones" of the class of 2020  live long and prosper after their graduation.

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