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CNN Live Event/Special

Celebrating The Class Of 2021. Aired 7-8:05p ET

Aired May 23, 2021 - 19:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: Tonight, you're invited to a star-studded graduation event with an address by Vice President Kamala Harris, musical performances by Andy Grammer, Lukas Graham and Portugal the Man. Inspiring messages from Kim Kardashian West, Ludacris, Kristen Bell, Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Alba, One Republic's Ryan Tedder, All-Star quarterback Russell Wilson, and basketball great Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade and Candace Parker.

This is a CNN special event "GRADUATION 2021."

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Welcome and congratulations to the class of 2021. I'm Brianna Keilar at the Duke Ellington School of the arts in Washington, D.C. Seniors here and across the country have gone through a lot to reach one of the biggest milestones of their lives. I'm joined by my colleague Don Lemon in New York.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Brianna, I'm at the LaGuardia Arts High School as we kick off the ultimate graduation celebration. We'll not only hear from the vice president of the United States, we have an exciting lineup of celebrities and powerful musical performances. But first memories of a year that has tested students, the nation, and the world.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: It's been an incredible and an unprecedented year of change in almost every way imaginable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coronavirus took away everything.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: School officials are especially concerned about the learning loss made worse by the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm willing to do anything right now to play.

KEILAR: The FDA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year- olds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that vaccinations are the first step to ensure our health and safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we're going to make it through.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm very excited to be able to have a prom this year. I'm excited to get all glammed up with my friends.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't know what to do. I didn't know if I could cry, laugh. I didn't know what to do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Family members can now watch me graduate, which is fantastic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I worked hard for this piece of paper.


KEILAR: As graduates look to the future, we have invited some big names in entertainment, sports, and social media to share their advice. First up, Kim Kardashian West.


KIM KARDASHIAN WEST, REALITY SHOW STAR: Congratulations to the Class of 2021. I know that your senior year is probably not how you envisioned it to go. But I do see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I do see that this pandemic will be behind us really soon.

About two years ago I decided to embark on my journey to go to law school and get my law degree. And it's been really challenging, but I feel you guys, and it's reminded me how important education is. So just remember, you know, stay focused in whatever you choose to do in life after learning so much and spending so much time in school and on this journey.

And I think that, you know, since this pandemic we've all realized that just happiness and health and choosing to do what you really love to do is probably the most important thing. So, find that, go for that, and congratulations.

MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, ACTOR: Yes. Congratulations to all you graduating seniors. You did it. Check it off the list. Way to be the one. Now look what you got in front of you, the whole world's out there. Yes, yes, yes. Let me tell you, life's worth living, and now you've made a big step on the way to doing just that for yourselves.

A few things that I'd want to remind you that I still try to remind myself. Invest in yourself, invest in what you love, invest in your family, invest in your friends, invest in your brothers and sisters. Invest in your own future. You can win out there. You can win in this world the right way. You can win in this world without lying, cheating, stealing. You can win in this world without screwing over the opponent.

You can win the right way. Win well. Wear it one. I'll also say this, you know, as you wonder, I know when I was your age I was wondering who the hell am I? You know? Well, it's hard to figure out who we are. So you know what's easier? Make sure you're clear about who you're not. Get rid of those things in your life that don't pay you back. That's the investment I'm talking about.

Get rid of those friends and those places and those habits that you may have that do not keep paying you back. All right? Get rid of those, eliminate those, and all of a sudden you find that in front of you you've got more things in front of you that do feed who you are, that do feed your primary investment, you. All right?


And, finally, as you go forward, life's scary. It's supposed to be, and it's OK to be scared. Just don't be afraid. You know, we all have courage in us, we all have cowardice in us. Cowardice whispers. Courage is yelling. Don't listen to the whispers. Listen to the courage that's yelling inside, dare yourself to have the courage to do what you need to do. All right? Go for it. And enjoy it. Enjoy it. Life ain't easy, it's not supposed to be.

Play the game of life as well as you can be. You'll be doing the best for others when you do best for yourself. And you'll be doing the best for yourself when you're doing the best for others. In the meantime, an all tops. Own it, just keep living.

RYAN TEDDER, ONE REPUBLIC: Hi. I'm Ryan Tedder from One Republic. And I just want to give a big shoutout to everybody graduating this year. I remember my senior year of high school and college. Honestly, I remember my graduating year from kindergarten, all with clarity and all of them held a lot of weight and gravity at the time. I remember being extremely, extremely nervous graduating high school.

I was very sentimental at that time. Like, is this the last time I'm going to see this person? Is this the last time I'm going to see them? And like taking photos with everybody and giving everybody hugs. So I know what you're going through. And doing it after this pandemic in this weird couple of years I know is even stranger. But what I can tell you is that, I mean, the future looks good.

It looks really, really, really freaking good. And I think that you just have to take one step forward and another step and another step. You don't have to figure it all out right now. I don't care what your parents say or what anybody thinks. All that pressure is self-imposed, it's not real. You don't have to have yourself figured out right now. You just have to put one foot in front of the other, and I think the most exciting thing is not knowing what's coming around the corner and just jumping and taking that step.

And I think that's the most important thing is having the bravery and the courage to do that. Tell you what, if I had a time machine, the one time in my life I would go back to is right after graduation. That moment after graduation I would relive that in seconds. So you have it good, just remember that.


LEMON: We are just moments away from our first musical performance by the LaGuardia High School Show Choir and Dance Ensemble. They'll have a beautiful backdrop at the Art Installation at the Green at Lincoln Center. Right now we're going to hear from a rising star in the arts.

Alora Young is a graduating high school senior from Nashville. She's also a finalist to be the National Youth Poet Laureate. She is sharing her new poem dedicated to graduates titled "Our First Exodus."


ALORA YOUNG, "OUR FIRST EXODUS": High school has always been to me an enigma. Every moment in those hallowed halls felt like a phantom fleeting. I never thought that junior year would be our last true meeting. We were just birds in an airport warbling in e-minor on our way to catch the latest and last COVID liner flying to save our country's legacies from early graves because we know too much, and we care too much, and we want to do the most dangerous of things.

Be the night sky and the stars within it at the same time. Our revolutionary covenant will persist for centuries because discovery is innate to our nature. We were born explorers, and as we grew older, we discovered the love of our neighbor. There is a distinct difference between being taught and learning. Education seems to me more than a right, it's a necessity, it creates creatives that lead us through the fight of running restlessly into tomorrow.

We survived the darkest night and still made it home. We are survivors untamed by fires and defeated by flood or disease. Through every battle we are fighters, we are finding the American spirit again.

We know the pain of martyrs will take the guidance of the men who poured the tea in Boston harbor. I will move this tassel for every classmate that never made it to graduation. Because one day this flag will mean what I think it is supposed to.


And we will build the world that we had always hoped to. This is a prayer for every kid we never truly got the chance to pray for. I swear on all that is fair, you are worth more.

And when I see you in your caps and gowns standing at those stage doors, I know tomorrow will be better because you are in it. We are in a battle for the soul of our nation, for every entity and identity that makes up our potentially penultimate generation, for the day every faith in our country is restored.

To the Class of 2021, to our people evermore.



ANNOUNCER: Up next, actress Kristen Bell. Ahead Portugal, the Man perform their smash hit "Feel It Still." And later Vice President Kamala Harris shares her message to the Class of 2021.


LOREN GRAY, SINGER: Hey, guys, it's Loren Gray. I wanted to congratulate all of the high school and college seniors on your graduations. You not only accomplished a huge milestone by graduating, but you did it during an extremely difficult year. You should be so proud of yourselves. Have fun celebrating, and good luck with your next adventure.


LEMON: We're back with GRADUATION 2021: A CNN SPECIAL EVENT. We have music, we have celebrities, we have the vice president of the United States.

KEILAR: And it's all in honor of seniors graduating at a unique moment in history.


LUDACRIS, RAPPER AND ACTOR: What's going on? I go by the name of Chris Ludacris Bridges, and I want to say congratulations to the graduating class of 2021. Now to say this year's been trying would be an understatement. Yet despite the new difficulties from a global pandemic, the challenges from adopting to a virtual learning environment, and even a few WIFI outages, you guys have grown up faster than any generation in history. So the good news is you all made it.

The better news is you have the whole world in front of you. With the skills you picked up in the past year, you're better prepared for the future than I am. That's how I feel. And what a year this has been from experience in social and cultural changes, from wearing masks to having more open and honest conversations about diversity, I mean, as a father of three, I'm inspired by what the future holds for you all. That's why I spent countless hours investing in the youth.

And all the leaders of tomorrow, this is how I do it through my foundation and my new company Kid Nation. And it's an online learning platform created specifically for kids because I believe in our next generation, and I believe the next generation needs enrichment.

I believe in the joy of learning. I believe they need not be taught the biases that divide us as a people. So I took it upon myself to contribute to the betterment of the most important resource we have in the world, and that's our youth.

The next generation of leaders, decisionmakers, coders, and even inventors, you all are the future, and you can do great, great things.

KRISTEN BELL, ACTRESS: Class of 2021, wow, I am impressed. You're 18 years old and you've already conquered something more daunting than any generation before you. You nailed the renegade dance. See, I'm cool about that. Actually, I didn't, I had to Google, like, things 18- year-olds do because I'm old. But you're young and I'm glad, and I'm glad you're here to save us. [19:20:05]

JESSICA ALBA, ACTRESS AND ENTREPRENEUR: Hi, I'm Jessica Alba, founder of the Onis Company. While your senior year and graduation may not have gone as you expected, my hope for you is to focus on entering this exciting moment in your life.

As I reflect back on my own journey, I wished someone had told me early on that no one would give me permission to challenge the status quo. No one would tell me I was allowed to lead or create a business.

I'm not going to front. It's not easy. But anything in life you really value takes perseverance, commitment, and honesty with yourself and others. With every challenge, I learned what I was capable of.

And when faced with doubters or straight-up haters, I found my voice, my strength, and conviction in what I believed in. So as you enter this new chapter, I encourage you to use this opportunity you've worked so hard for to find your purpose and make it part of everything that you do.

Be relentless in your pursuit to create the world you want to see that stands for the values you live by. By fighting and standing for fairness, lifting up underrepresented voices and pushing for equality, you will be the changemakers we need in society. Now more than ever, the world, the planet needs you to push for the greater good.

BRIANNE HOWEY, ACTRESS, "GINNY AND GEORGIA": Hello, graduating class of 2021. I am Brianne. Congratulations on this enormous accomplishment. It's truly a privilege to get to say a few words to you guys.

First and foremost, I hope you are all incredibly proud of all that you have accomplished over this last year and a half. It's been an incredibly disruptive and disorienting time. And I hope you guys are able to look back at all of these obstacles you've overcome and take so much pride in that.

The patience, the perseverance, the pivoting, all of these qualities that you've proven to yourselves are qualities that you will take with you for the rest of your life, and it will help you rise to truly any occasion from here on out.

PORTUGAL THE MAN, MUSICIAN: Hey, everybody, we are Portugal, the Man, and we just want to send out a big old congratulations to the graduating class of 2021. Hotdog, you all made it. Well done, and we depend on you for our future. You are the future. It's all about the youth, and here's a song for you all.



ANNOUNCER: GRADUATION 2021 continues with basketball legends Shaquille O'Neal, Dwyane Wade, and Candace Parker. A new single from Lukas Graham, and a moving commencement address by Vice President Kamala Harris.



LEMON: That was a popular TikTok group EARCANDY helping us celebrate GRADUATION 2021.


Some sports superstars are joining us now with their pep talks for graduates beginning with one of the NFL top quarterbacks, Russell Wilson.

RUSSELL WILSON, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS QUARTERBACK: Congratulations to the Class of 2021. You've already accomplished so much. You've been through tough times, been there for each other. Now, you have a chance to fully commit to your vision. Who do you want to be? How will you be great to me?

To me, see, vision isn't about what you plan to do or what you hope to do. Vision -- vision is about what you're called to do. When you're living with vision, you're not just being successful, you're achieving exactly what you were put on this earth to achieve.

I can't tell you what you're meant to do in life, but I can share a few quick lessons about living with vision that I've learned along the way.

First, vision takes discipline. See, I play on Sundays, but my goal is to win every day. That means no wasted moments, no wasted minutes, no wasted days. Sure, we all get distracted, of course, but the essence of life, the essence of success is when distractions come, how fast can you get back in line? How quickly can you regain your focus? That's what great leaders do.

Second, vision takes resilience. Make sure you have resilience, no matter what your vision is, I promise, you will have plenty of chances to quit.

In my career, I was told I would never play for college baseball and play football at the same time. I was told I'd never play quarterback, I was told I would never make it in the NFL.

See, I could have listened to all the people who didn't believe in my vision. But instead, I was just excited to prove them wrong. See, graduates, no matter what your visions, pursue it with everything you've got.

Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, but don't be the one who quits.

Third, this is key. Vision takes faith.

See, faith comes in different forms, but no matter how or whether you worship or -- you have to find a way to believe in yourself, and at the same time, to believe in something greater than yourself. Faith gives you perspective, it grounds you, it humbles you even as you strive for greatness.

And finally, true vision is about looking outside yourself. See true vision outside yourself. That's something I've really learned since I've become a dad. One of my favorite achievements in life is the Why Not You Foundation next year and starting our Why Not You Academy that opens this September. It's not that I've lost my ambition, if anything, actually my ambition has grown.

But now, I don't want to do great things for me. I want to do great things for my kids, my community, for the people I can use my voice to lift up.

So graduates, you have the tools you need to live with vision. So now, here's my challenge for you. Don't just think about the life you lead, think about the lives you change.

Class of 2021. What's your vision?

Remember, vision takes discipline, it takes resilience and vision, vision takes faith.

Congrats. I love you.

CANDACE PARKER, NBA ON TNT ANALYST, WNBA CHAMPION: Congratulations to the Class of 2021. You made it. Obviously, this year has been a challenge and it's probably not the senior year that you guys were hoping for. But graduating is a big deal. I hope you guys learned a lot of lessons and congratulations on getting your degree.

Shaq, do you have any advice for them? You have four degrees. Do you have anything you want to say?

SHAQUILLE O'NEAL, NBA ON TNT ANALYST, NBA CHAMPION AND HALL OF FAMER: I know you were going to come to me first, so not only do I have four degrees, I have four points.

First point is be open to change. This isn't college anymore. Welcome to the big world. You've got to pay bills. You've got to start all over. You've got to write resumes.

All the stuff that you learned in college applied.

Second point, do not hide from mistakes. Before you succeed, you must first learn to fail. Third point, keep moving forward no matter what. Because after you keep failing and failing and failing before you succeed, keep moving forward. Never give up.

And my last point, learn from everything. The greatest leaders are the ones smart enough to hire people smarter than them. So whenever somebody smarter than you is talking, make sure you learn.

DWYANE WADE, NBA ON TNT ANALYST, NBA CHAMPION: The only thing to add to that is, you know, throughout this pandemic, it's been it's been tough for our entire world. And for you guys to persevere and you know to be here on this day, on graduation, it's an amazing feat.

And so, you know, I just -- I'm excited about the future. You know, you guys have been the future of this world. I'm excited about our future leaders. And just understand that your belief is stronger than any one doubt, and so continue to keep going, continue to keep striving and be amazing and congratulations.

PARKER: And this is from getting knocked down eight, no, getting knocked down seven, stand up eight. D Wade, what would you tell your 17-year-old self if you could? What lessons have you learned now that you would want to help yourself back at that age?

WADE: Don't wait. Go for your dreams. You know same thing I tell my son and always, obviously we understand that life is precious and don't wait. You know, anything that you can imagine that you want to do, anything you imagine that you want to be, put the work in to try to do that.


WADE: You know, find the individuals that you know will help you reach your goal, and don't say when I get older, I'm going to do this and that. Do it now.

We're in a world now that showed all of us that you can be anything that you want to be, as long as you in the right situation you're in the right place and you have the right people around you. So don't wait. Go for your dreams.

O'NEAL: From 14 to 17, I was a medium level juvenile delinquent; at the age of 17, I said, I have out to start programming my life. So to answer your question, nothing because everything I do and everything I've been doing has been programmed.

I sit down and think about, I say okay, I want to do this, I want to do an album. I want to do a movie. I want to be the most talented Maverick, so you go and do it. So before you think about going out and doing something, make sure you plan it and plan carefully.

PARKER: And if I can piggyback on that, it would be to chase people in passion because I think if you chase those two things, then you'll never fail. So on behalf of all of us here at TNT, congratulations to the Class of 2021.

WADE: Congrats. Woo.

O'NEAL: Woo.

LUKAS GRAHAM, SINGER: Hey, ladies and gentlemen Lukas Graham here, performing my new single "Happy for You." I hope you like it.

Once you left, I went to space. I don't recognize this place. Where are you? Where are you?

Now I miss the smallest things. I'm not ready for this change. Where are you? Where are you? Can't help but wonder. Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready


Do you forgive me? Am I something you can talk about?

I heard you're moving on and now you got it figured out. Well, I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy for you.

Are you really going to tell me that you're better now? Hey, ain't it funny how we swore we couldn't live without, each other? Now you got another, got it figured out.

Well, I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy for you, ooh-ooh. Happy for you, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh

Just want to be happy too.

Love you, hate you, all the same. Either way it takes up space. I had you, I had you ...

Haunted by the ghost of us. Sorry, now I've said too much. I had to, I had you.

Can't help but wonder.

Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready now?

Do you forgive me? Am I something you can talk about?

I heard you're moving on and now you got it figured out. Well, I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy for you.

Are you really going to tell me that you're better now? Hey, ain't it funny how we swore we couldn't live without, each other, now you got another, got it figured out. Well, I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy for you, ooh-ooh.

Happy for you, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh.

Just want to be happy, too.

I've lived without things, long enough, long enough. Don't you still wonder if it could've been us?

Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready now? Do you forgive me, am I something you can talk about?

I heard you're moving on and now you got it figured out. I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy for you.

Are you really going to tell me that you're better now? Hey, ain't it funny how we swore we couldn't live without, each other, now you got another, got it figured out.

Well, I'm happy, I'm happy, I'm happy for you, ooh-ooh. Happy for you, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh. Just want to be happy, too.


ANNOUNCER: Graduation 2021 continues with social media star, Addison Rae, Andy Grammer debuts his new song and Vice President Kamala Harris delivers a challenge to graduates.


ADDISON RAE, SOCIAL MEDIA STAR: Hello, it's Addison Rae.

SHERI: And Sheri.

RAE: And we want to say a big congratulations --

SHERI: To the Class of 2021.

RAE: And if I had some advice for you guys, it'd be just because your path may look different than other people's doesn't mean it's the wrong one. Love you guys.

LEMON: Right now, multi-platinum singer and songwriter Andy Grammer shares his tribute to the class of 2021. He's debuting his new single "Lease on Life."

ANDY GRAMMER, SINGER: Like a sunrise on the longest night. Like a rescue, home in just in time. He saved me, when I cannot see the light.

Like a heartbeat to lonely drum when I thought that, that the end had come, you remind me that it's only just begun.

Took my soul, down to the water, mama. I came back different then. Long as we got one another singing, oh, oh, oh.

Everything is going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right.

Got a brand new, got a brand new, got a brand new lease on life.

Everything is going to be all right when I look into your eyes.

Got a brand new, got a brand new lease on life.


GRAMMER: Like a deep end, I want to take you in when I hold you, I'm alive again. You proved that. God's been listening.

You're the side where the grass is green. Yes, you shake me like a tambourine. No jerseys, we make quite a team.

When you took my soul down to the water, mama, I came back a different man.

Long as we got one another singing, oh, oh, oh.

Everything is going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right.

Got a brand new, got a brand new, got a brand new lease on life.

Everything is going to be all right when I look into your eyes.

Got a brand new, got a brand new, got a brand new lease on life.

Lease on life.

Everything is going to be all right. Everything is going to be all right.

Got a brand new, got a brand new, got a brand new lease on life.

Everything is going to be all right when I look into your eyes.

Got a brand new, got a brand, got a brand new lease on life.

When you took my soul down to the water, mama, I came back a different man.

Long as we got one another singing got a brand new lease on life.

When you took my soul down to the water, mama, I came back a different man.

KEILAR: Thank you to Andy Grammer for that performance and to all the stars who are joining us tonight. Of course, the real stars of this special are the graduates and I got a chance to meet four standout high school seniors. Take a look as we share their stories and witness a big surprise.


KEILAR (voice over): Azzi Fudd is not only her school's Student Body Vice President. She is also the number one women's high school basketball recruit in the nation.

AZZI FUDD, ST. JOHN'S COLLEGE HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: My most memorable moment this year was probably my birthday, which was also my signing day. So the day I committed and signed to UConn.

KEILAR (voice over): Like many students, Azzi's schoolyear wasn't without its struggles during the pandemic, but she stayed positive.

FUDD: Looking back, I am grateful that I got all this extra time with my family. I felt like I've really gotten a great relationship with my brothers over this past year and a half, and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

KEILAR (voice over): Quarantine was nothing new for Kristen Tafertiller. In August 2019, Kristen was diagnosed with leukemia and spent the next eight months in the hospital. KRISTEN TEFERTILLER, HOLY HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR AND VALEDICTORIAN: I wore

masks before they were cool. I wash my hands way more than the average person and I kept everything clean.

KEILAR (voice over): Kristen is now cancer free and recently received some more welcome news.

TEFERTILLER: We made it.

When I got the news that I was valedictorian, it was like a giant weight lifted off of me. It was a goal that even before cancer that I had made, and when I was in the hospital, my doctor said, you don't have to be number one in your class. You're going through too much.

And I looked at him and I said, "Watch me."

When I was in the hospital. I told my mom when I get out of here, we're going skydiving because it's always been on my list of what I want to do. So I said if I can beat cancer, I can go skydiving.

KEILAR (voice over): Like many seniors, Aditya Bora has been attending school remotely. But this tech loving student athlete found a silver lining.

ADITYA BORA, JOHNS CREEK HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: I always enjoyed building things and exploring things in my free time. These are a pair of self- tying shoes.

KEILAR (voice over): Aditya, the lead of his school's robotics team has spent the last four years using those skills to help others.

BORA: This is a robotic therapy device I built for a student at my high school to help him learn how to control a motorized wheelchair.

KEILAR (voice over): If we've learned anything in 2020, it's that scientists can change the world. Stanford University-bound Ahmed Muhammad knows this. That's why he started KITS3.

AHMED MUHAMMAD, OAKLAND TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR: It's a nonprofit organization that I started to introduce youth to the wonders of science through fun, affordable and accessible means. We've been able to distribute thousands of science kits across the country.

This is the original experiment set.

KEILAR (voice over): Ahmed is his school's first black male valedictorian. But for him, sharing his love of science tops all of his accomplishments.


MUHAMMAD: I was able to create something that that's bigger than me.


KEILAR (on camera): Congratulations, you guys. I'm so excited to be joined by you and hearing about your personal stories.

We have a special guest who wants to talk to you guys. So I want to go ahead and bring them in, so that they can congratulate you in the way that you deserve. Madam Vice President, please take it away.


I couldn't be more proud of you guys. The things that you all have accomplished. You give me such inspiration. And what's up, Oakland?

MUHAMMAD: Oh, yes, I was definitely going to -- I was going to take a little piece of your inaugural speech for my valedictorian speech. I said, you're like, on the first, but I won't be the last. I just had to steal that from you.

HARRIS: That's exactly right. That's exactly right. And that's -- and I said that in my speech. It's advice my mother gave me. She said, you know, Kamala, you may be the first to be many things, but make sure you're not the last.

Sometimes you're going to be in a room and you're going to feel like you're the only one like you in that room. The only one who looks like you or the only one who has had your life experience. But what I want you four to remember, and you have to hear me on this, we will all be in that room with you. So don't you ever feel alone?

We are all in that room with you applauding you on. Okay.

So happy graduation Class of 2021. Go forth and lead. We need you.

ANNOUNCER: Graduation 2021 continues with a commencement speech you will only see right here delivered by the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris.


KEILAR: We're celebrating graduation 2021. Now, the commencement address delivered by the first woman and the first woman of color elected to the second highest office in the land.

LEMON: Here is Vice President Kamala Harris.

HARRIS: Hello, and congratulations to the Class of 2021. I am so proud of each and every one of you.

You know, history is going to remember a lot about this time, about all who persevered, about all who served -- the heroes among us, and about all that was lost. Lives were lost, livelihoods and normalcy.

And graduates, you will remember all of that to be sure, and you will also remember one thing you gained, one important thing, one incredible thing, your high school diploma.

You know exactly what it took to get here. Right in the middle of your junior year, everything seemed to stop. Prom was canceled. Sports were canceled. School plays were canceled. And you were separated from your friends and your support network.

For more than a year, you kept going to class even if it was online, you kept studying, you kept striving, and you made it to this day. And there are two things I'd like you to remember. One, you now know that you have what it takes to get through pretty much anything.

So when you come up against an obstacle, when you experience a setback -- and you will, we all do -- remember the resilience that you showed this past year, the determination.

Remember that you have the strength to get through anything.

Two, you do not have to get through anything alone. You are not alone. We are all in this together.

And when we look out for one another, everybody is better off.

Just think about what you have done. You have worn your masks, you have volunteered at food banks, you have helped your siblings get signed in for school, and you have helped your grandparents get signed in for the vaccine. So this past year, as tough as it has been, it has taught you a few things about yourself. And I want you to know this about yourself and be proud of this about yourself, which is: you are strong, you are smart and you have so much to offer.

And so as you take this next step, I'd ask that you carry with you all that you have learned because today, you are stepping out into the world. And as you do, we are beginning as a world to emerge from the pandemic.

So class of 2021, I do believe you will help determine what our world will look like on the other side. You are not the first to shoulder this responsibility.

Throughout our nation's history, students and young people have helped shape that industry and that history. Think about it, in 1912 Mabel Ping-Hua Lee rode on horseback in a woman's suffrage parade. She was only 16.

In 1930, Larry Itliong joined his first strike as a farm worker. He was only 17.

In 1942, Eugene Valencia Jr. earned his wings and went on to fight in World War II. He was 21.

In 1960, Diane Nash led the Nashville sit-ins to protest racial segregation. She was just under 22.

And at the age of 22 this year, the poet, Amanda Gorman stood on the inaugural platform and challenged all of us and you might remember, she said, quote, "Let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left with."

So that is the work ahead of you, and that is the question in front of you: how will you make our world better?


And some of you will go on serve in our military and defend our country. And in that way, fight for the ideals of our country. Some of you will join the workforce and build our country up. Having the ability to see what can be created and what can be.

Some of you will go off to college and study and explore things that we haven't even discovered yet. You will become teachers. You will become leaders. You will become nurses. You will invent the technology that will help our nation compete and you will help lead our nation including as public servants.

No matter what you decide to do, no matter where you decide to go, no matter how many times you change your major, if you go to college, or your profession, we need you. We need you to be as kind as you are courageous. We need you to be as ambitious as you are curious. We need you to dream and we need you to do.

And that is what I call American aspiration. It's the capacity to think big, the capacity to keep going. It lives in each and every one of you.

So as you cross the graduation stage in person or virtually, as we emerge from this pandemic, please remember, you are prepared. Remember, you are not alone. Remember to aspire with ambition.

And graduates, always know President Joe Biden and I and your country believers in you. And we are counting on you to lead.

Congratulations again, the Class of 2021. Thank you.



LEMON: Thanks to the Mellow Tones from Duke Ellington School of the Arts for that terrific performance of "Lean on Me." And thank you to Vice President Harris for her inspiring speech.

KEILAR: On behalf of Don and everyone at CNN, we wish all the graduates and their families a healthy and happy future.