Beyoncé to Class of 2020 Grads: ‘Keep Your Eye on Your Intention’

Beyoncé offered some words of wisdom during a candid commencement speech for class of 2020 graduates. During YouTube’s “Dear Class of 2020” special today, the singer stressed that graduates need to build their own stage and “make the world see [them”].

She brought up her own struggles getting started in the music industry and her eventual plan to make things happen for herself and to give others the chances they weren’t given because of the male-dominated music world and the lack of opportunities that so many women and people of color have.

The Grammy winner also brought up the recent killings of George Floyd Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others for whom this year’s graduates and many other Americans are marching in the streets.

“We’ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, can start the wheels of change,” she said. “Real change has started with you, this new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today.”

Read her full remarks below:

“Thank you, President Obama and Mrs. Obama for including me in this very special day. And congratulations to the class of 2020. You have arrived here in the middle of a global crisis, a racial pandemic, and worldwide expression of outrage at the senseless killing of yet another unarmed black human being, and you still made it. We’re so proud of you. Thank you for using your collective voice in letting the world know that black lives matter. The killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have left us all broken. It has left the entire country searching for answers. We’ve seen that our collective hearts, when put to positive action, can start the wheels of change. Real change has started with you, this new generation of high school and college graduates who we celebrate today. I did not get to experience college like some of you, or the campus parties that left you struggling the next day in class, although that could have been fun. But my parents did teach me the value of education, how to be authentic in my actions, and how to celebrate individuality and the importance of investing in myself.

Dear graduates, please remember to take a little bit of time to give thanks to your family members and the community who’s been such a support to you. You are achieving things your grandparents and parents never could imagine for themselves. You are the answer to a generation of prayers. now some of you might be the first in your family to graduate from college. Maybe you did not follow the path that was expected of you, and you probably questioned your decision. But know that stepping out is the best thing you can do for self-discovery.

I know how hard it is to step out and bet on yourself. There was a pivotal turning point in my life, when I chose to build my own company many years ago. I had to trust that I was ready and that my parents and mentors provided me with the tools I needed to be successful, but that was terrifying. The entertainment business is still very sexist; it’s still very male-dominated, and as a woman I did not see enough female role models given the opportunity to do what I knew I had to do.

To run my label and management company, to direct my films and produce my tours, that meant ownership. Owning my masters, owning my art, owning my future, and writing my own story. Not enough Black women had a seat at the table, so I had to go and chop down that wood and build my own table. Then, I had to invite the best there was to have a seat. That meant hiring women, men, outsiders, underdogs, people that were overlooked and waiting to be seen. Many of the best creatives and businesspeople, who although supremely qualified and talented were turned down over and over as executives at major corporations because they were female or because or racial disparity, and I’ve been very proud to provide them with a place at my table.

One of the main purposes of my art for many years has been dedicated to showing the beauty of Black people to the world: Our history, our profundity, and the value of Black lives. I’ve tried my best to pull down the veil of appeasement to those who may feel uncomfortable with our excellence. To the young women, our future leaders, know that you’re about to make the world turn. I see you. You are everything the world needs. Make those power moves; be excellent. And to the young kings: Lean into your vulnerability and redefine masculinity. Lead with heart. There are so many different ways to be brilliant. I believe you and every human being is born with a masterful gift. Don’t make the world make you feel that you have to look a certain way to be brilliant. And no, you don’t have to speak a certain way to be brilliant, but you do have to spread your gift around the planet in a way that is authentically you. To all those who feel different: If you’re part of a group that is called ‘other,’ a group that does not get the chance to be center stage, build your own stage, and make them see you.

Your queerness is beautiful, your Blackness is beautiful, your compassion is beautiful, your compassion, your understanding, your fight for people who may be different from you is beautiful. I hope you continue to go into the world and show them that you will never stop being yourself, that it’s your time now. Make them see you. Now if you’ve ever been called dumb, unattractive, overweight, unworthy, untalented, well, so have I. Whatever you do, don’t let negativity of people projecting their own self doubts on you deter you from your focus. I know those moments are painful, and you’re human, and it hurts like hell, but now is the time to turn those criticisms into fuel and motivation to become a beautiful beast. Respect is everything. There’s no successful relationship without respect, nor a successful movement if the basic principle is not respect. The world will respect you as much as you respect yourself. I’m often asked, ‘what’s your secret to success?.’

The shorter answer: Put in that work. There may be more failures than victories. Yes, I’ve been blessed to have 24 Grammys, but I’ve lost 46 times. That meant rejection 46 times. Please don’t ever feel entitled to win; just keep working harder.

Surrender to the cards you are dealt. It’s from that surrender that you get your power. Losing can be the best motivator to get your bigger wins, so don’t ever compare yourself to anyone else. There will be wins and losses, there will be tears and laughter. You’ll feel the shades of life deeply. Now with success comes challenges. With your wins, you may start to notice people spending a lot of energy trying to tear you down. Try not to take it personally. Unfortunately, it’s something that comes along with success. Whenever you feel like you’re not in control, or the world is against you, let that vulnerability motivate you into greatness. That’s how I found my true self. I remain a work in progress, and that’s the beauty of growth. I’ve been happiest when I let go and allow life to show me the next move. When you bet on yourself, you’re making an investment into your own future. When you choose to spend your valuable time thinking, speaking typing negative thoughts, you’re investing in something that will give you absolutely no return on your investment. Class of 2020, every thought in your mind is powerful, every word you speak is powerful, every action you take has consequences for yourself and your community.

Look what you’ve been able to do in the last 14 days. We’ve seen the power of collective. We’ve seen what happens when we join for the same cause. Please, continue to be the voice for the voiceless. Never forget we can disagree in a way that is productive to arrive at decisions that foster real change. And if you make a mistake, that’s OK, too. But we all have a responsibility to hold ourselves accountable and change. Whatever the world looks like in 10 years, in 20 years, part of that is up to you. I urge you to let this current moment push you to improve yourself in all areas of your life: at work, at home, activism, spirituality. Wherever you can find hope, follow it. And remember you are never alone. Lean on that strength of togetherness. Keep the collective strong, stay focused.

Don’t talk about what you’re gonna do. Don’t just dream about what you’re gonna do. Don’t criticize somebody else for what they’re not doing. You be it. Be about it. Be about that action, and go do it. Keep your eye on your intention. Don’t let any outside distraction or your own insecurity stop you from your goals. Embrace that struggle. Surviving that struggle will strengthen you. This is a crucial time in our history and in your life. The earth is ripping that BandAid off so we can really see our wounds, so we can acknowledge and nurture them. That’s when true healing begins. You can be that leader we all need. You can lead the movement that celebrates humanity. My prayer for you is that you invest in yourself and see the value of giving back and building your community the best way you can.

I pray that you continue to celebrate and value lives that appear different from your own. I know you are ready to start one of the most important journeys of your life. You are at the brink of a huge world shift. Look how far you’ve come and how much you’ve contributed. Keep pushing. Forget the fear, forget the doubt. Keep investing, and keep betting on yourself. And congratulations.”

You can watch the full speech here:

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Bey was one of several major stars to appear on the program and give a speech. Barack and Michelle Obama also gave addresses, along with k-pop boy band BTS.

Beyoncé’s appearance comes days after she encouraged protesters, activists, and allies to continue their work in the Black Lives Matter movement following the arrests of all four officers involved in George Floyd’s death. “The world came together for George Floyd,” she wrote on Instagram. “We know there is a long road ahead. Let’s remain aligned and focused in our call for real justice.”

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Last Friday, Beyoncé called for justice for Floyd and for people to pray for “peace, compassion, and healing for our country.” She said:

We need justice for George Floyd. We all witnessed his murder in broad daylight. We’re broken, and we’re disgusted. We cannot normalize this pain. I’m not only speaking to people of color. If you’re white, black, brown, or anything in between, I’m sure you feel hopeless by the racism going on in America right now. No more senseless killings of human beings. No more seeing people of color as less than human. We can no longer look away. George is all of our family in humanity. He’s our family because he’s a fellow American. There have been too many times that we’ve seen these violent killings and no consequences. Yes, someone’s been charged, but justice is far from being achieved. Please sign the petition and continue to pray for peace, compassion, and healing for our country. Thank you so much.

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