Bill Clinton delivers commencement address to 2020 graduates

During a Verizon “Class of 2020: Ready for Anything” commencement address hosted by Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg, former President Bill Clinton told graduates to examine themselves and the country in light of the coronavirus pandemic and the protests after the death of George Floyd. Verizon, the parent company for Yahoo News, is hosting a four-week virtual commencement speaker series honoring this year's graduating class.

Video Transcript

BILL CLINTON: Thank you very much. And let me say first, congratulations to the class of 2020 and to all the educators, the parents, the friends, the mentors who have done so much to bring them to this milestone in their lives. Whatever else you may think about what's going on, you will never forget your senior year. It will always be unforgettable for reasons that are both positive and not so positive. Your class has moved online. Your routines were up-ended. Many important events, including in-person graduations, were cancelled. And you know that you are graduating into an uncertain future, but it's not all bad.

Let's look at the troubles and the positives. In just over three months, the coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Americans and people throughout the world. It's damaged our economy, fundamentally changed the way we live, work, study, and interact with each other. It has also laid bare many longstanding inequalities and vulnerabilities in our society, including racial and income health disparities, food insecurity, and the overall precariousness of living life under or just above the poverty line.

Just as we were dealing with that, we then watched as George Floyd's life was squeezed out of him, as Ahmaud Arbery's last run turned him into hunters' prey, and as Breonna Taylor died in a hail of bullets. George Floyd's death reverberated across this country as nothing had in years, in large measure because it was captured on video by a brave, young, 17-year-old woman for all the world to see, the entire excruciating eight minutes and 46 seconds of it. In response, people have flooded onto the streets to demonstrate and to demand an end to racism, not just in policing but in every aspect of our lives.

So you are moving into an already uncertain future, made more difficult by the pandemic. But as you take the next steps on your life journey, what will happen to you and what will become of us? Socrates was onto something when he said, the unexamined life is not worth living. Now is a time when we all have to examine our own lives and the life of our country and the trends in the world. And we have to ask ourselves who we really are, what we really believe, what kind of country and world do we really want for our children, and most important, what are we prepared to do about it?

More From