K-pop band BTS joined Barack and Michelle Obama, Beyoncé, and many more A-listers to give an inspiring and impassioned commencement speech to class of 2020 graduates during YouTube’s Dear Class of 2020 graduation special. They each spoke. Some members chose to speak of their own graduation memories, while others chose to talk about the fears they are feeling right now during the global pandemic.
They started off the speech by saying, “Hello, we are BTS.
Then, RM took over: “Dear class of 2020, it’s been a strange year so far, but you made it. Today, we might not have flowers, and we might not have graduation caps. What we do have is possibly the most special graduation ceremony in history. Never before have so many gathered to celebrate a graduating class for their achievements and their dreams. You can be watching us from your bed, from your living room, alone, or with somebody. Wherever you are, you will all soon be breaking out of one world and soar into another. Ten years ago, it snowed really hard on the day of middle school graduation. I remember that day clearly, because I took a picture with my friends and kept it as my messenger profile for the rest of my school years. On that day, I was just a boy who had closed just one chapter, ready to pen another. And I remember that feeling: It was really thrilling and breathtaking. It was a moment I felt most like me, myself. A feeling I wanted to hold to hold onto forever. So, as a fellow individual in his 20s all the way from Seoul, Korea, I want to say congratulations. We are very excited for what lies ahead of you. Regardless of where or how far you are, we hope our stories today can give you some sort of comfort, hope [he pointed to his fellow BTS member J-Hope and laughed], and maybe even a bit of inspiration.”
Next Jungkook had this to say: “Congrats, everyone,” he said, taking a few seconds to clap. “Unlike RM, my graduation was recorded online via YouTube on BANGTAN BOMB. My fellow BTS members were there throughout all of my high school years. I remember them saying ‘When did you grow old enough to graduate?’ And once the ceremony was over, we went and had Jajangmyeon together. I recently watched that video again, and it made me wonder, ‘Did that child really grow to become me?’ RM mentioned that he still sees himself in the boy in the graduation picture, but I feel like I’ve come a very long way. All I’ve done is continue on, but even today, I continue to learn new things. So here I stand today with my members, with faith in myself, my members, and the world. And I hope you all also do the same for yourself and move forward.”
Jin took it from there with his own story: “My memory of graduation is a little different. I twas before my debut as BTS. I was around 20, just a high school graduate going into university. Back the, the notion of becoming an adult was something quite scary. Anxious about making my way into an unfamiliar world, I was cautious about everything I said or did. Sometimes, I’d feel restless, watching my friends go on far ahead of me, and attempting to keep up with their speed would only leave me breathless. I soon realized that their pace was not my own. What held me together during these times was a promise I made with myself to ‘take it slow.’ I’d go at my own pace, steadily. From then on, it became a habit of mine to take extra time for myself. For instance, when learning choreography, I begin practice days earlier than the others day. If any of you feels lost in the face of uncertainty, or the pressure of starting anew, don’t rush. Take a deep breath. You may find that any moment can be turned into opportunity. Allow yourself to take it easy. Take it one step at a time. You might discover the important things you were missing, and they will reach out to you.”
He kicked it over to SUGA: “These days, I feel as though I’ve fallen to the ground during a race. I dust my knees and get up again, only to find that there is nobody around me. It’s as though I’m deserted on an island. This might not be the grand finale that you had imagined, and a fresh start might seem far away. But I wish to tell you: Please don’t be afraid, don’t worry yourself. The end and beginning, beginning and end are connected. There are some things you can only do in isolation, such as focusing only on myself and breaking my own barriers. One small person can dream the biggest dream, paint the largest picture, and make endless possibilities come true. When we meet again, I look forward to seeing your dream, your picture, and your endless possibilities out in this world. Take your hands off what you can’t control, and get your hands on what you can change. As you and I continue on in life, we will find ourselves in so many situations out of our grasp. The only thing we can control is ourselves. Get your hands on the changes you can make., because your possibilities are limitless. After all, I also had no idea I would become BTS either. Thank you.”
Jimin shared his own feelings of empathy during the pandemic: First, congratulations on your graduation. But at the same time, I am worried for everyone. I think about your health and whether you’re doing OK, whether you are holding on tight when nothing seems to go as planned, whether your body and mind are all safe and sound. I hope you are all doing well, but if things are not OK—even in the slightest—we send you our most sincere consolation with all our hearts. SUGA likened the stage of today to being deserted on an island, but I hope you will never give up. Remember there is a person here in Korea, in the city of Seoul, who understands you. We are all in different parts of the world, in different environments and circumstances, but at this moment I hope we can all give each other a warm pat on the back and say, ‘It’s OK.’
J-Hope took it from there: “Hi, it’s your hope, J-Hope. I’m not much different from all of you. At times, I feel as though I’ve reached a dead end as I perform and make music. Sometimes, my mind is bleached white, and I can hardly take another step forward. It’s a regular occurrence as I work. At these times, I think, ‘just this once. Just this once,’ and I pick myself back up. I decide to trust myself. The next attempt might not be perfect, but the second is better than the first, and the third is even better than the second. And that is the moment I decide, ‘I’m glad I chose not to give up.’ There will be times in your life when you question your own decisions, whether it be about your major or your profession, whether you have made the right choice, whether you are doing well or walking the path of failure. And when you do, remember: You are the leader of your own life, and chant it over and over again. ‘I can do it. You got it. I can do it well. I can do it better than anybody.’ Like this.”
V continued: “I’d like to congratulate all of you who are graduating on this very special day, he said, clapping. When you look back on this day years from now, how will you remember it? Many o fun are at war with reality right now. But I hope we can take bits of this moment with us, in a photograph or a memo, to look back and remember June of 2020, and how it compares to the new today you will be embracing. In all honesty, I wasn’t born with the talents of singing or dancing and wasn’t much the persevering type, either. I began later than my friends, and I was lacking in some aspects, but I soon developed a joy and passion for singing and dancing. This joy has motivated my persistent efforts, and has led me to where I stand today. If there is anyone out there who cannot see where they should go from here forth, I urge you to listen to your heart. Things may feel a little difficult right now, but somewhere out there, luck and opportunity is waiting for you. I believe that. On that note, I will remember this day. Today may not be my own graduation, but I will try to look back upon this day years from now and remember it as a memory to treasure. And I look forward to the day you will stand and tell us your own story.
RM finished for the group: Dear class of 2020, I hope our stories reached you all today. To be really, really frank, we still feel very unsure and unsettled as we speak, just like that day we left the school gates for the last time on graduation day. Some say we have achieved so many things, but we stand no different from any other youth in their 20s, our graduation caps still press to our heads and awkwardly peering into the face of reality. The recent unforeseen events completely changed our plans, and the sense of loss and anxiety we felt then are still with us today. The fear of an [uncertain] future as our daily lives turn upside down is a moment of realization of the self, the realization of what makes me the true me, myself. As musicians, we are pulling ourselves together by making music. We write songs, we produce, and we practice as we think about the people we love. And it connects [us] to the world during such difficult times, and with music, we hope we can bring you smiles and courage again. V just mentioned memories and photographs. For us, our way of remembering and communicating is to make music. For you, it could be anything. In our music, and in our hearts, and in the time that we break out of ourselves, we’re alone but also together. We may be seeing each other through just a camera on this small screen, but I know your future will bloom to something much bigger and magnificent. Graduates, friends, family, faculty: Today, you stand with us the largest graduating class in history.”
Finally, the band stood up to wish their heartfelt congratulations to the class of 2020. “Congratulations class of 2020,” they yelled, as they joyfully tossed graduation caps into the air.
Watch their full speech here:
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BTS’s commencement speech comes just days after the boys tweeted support of Black Lives Matter on Twitter. In Korean and English, they wrote, “we stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. You, I and we all have the right to be respected. We will stand together. #BlackLivesMatter.”
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BTS will also be performing during the program’s grad party portion of the livestream later in the day.
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