LeBron James knows how to pump up the crowd.
With students all across the nation not able to celebrate their graduation after the coronavirus pandemic closed schools, the Los Angeles Laker kicked off Saturday's Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020.
"Seniors, tonight is for you. Tonight, we honor 12 years of your hard work. The studying, the tests, early mornings and late nights. And we honor everyone who got you here -- your friends, your family, your community," James began. "Class of 2020, this is for you. Every student you see, the videos in our show, the pictures you see around me now, are all part of your graduation class and sent in by you guys. Before we get to the show, there is something I want to say to each of you. Thank you. You should have had a real graduation. I know. You should have had an incredible senior year. I know that as well."
"But you made a sacrifice. And you did that to keep your community safe and healthy. On behalf of all of us, thank you. There is no doubt in my mind that the class of 2020 is going to be something really special," he continued. "After all this? You guys are prepared for anything. So celebrate. Be proud. Tonight is for you. We are all ready for the class of 2020 to change the world. Congratulations."
James reappeared later in the program, speaking about the importance of schools as a safety net for students.
"In our poorest neighborhoods, schools are about much more than learning. In places like Akron, Ohio, schools are the most essential service. It may be the only place to support you, the only place to protect you, and for many, the only place to feed you. Our schools are our safety net. Our people build our communities. The class of 2020, as you celebrate tonight, do not forget your safety net," he said.
"Every teacher, every coach, and every pastor. They, along with your friends and family, got you to this moment. And now, it is time to go to a new place. It is time to chase every dream. Accept every challenge. Strive for greatness. Honor every promise. And recommit to your community," James continued.
The NBA star went on, noting the importance of focusing on community -- even though "the last thing you want to hear right now is 'stay home.'"
"That's not my message to you," James said. "My message is, 'Stay close to home.' Maybe not physically but in every other way possible. Pursue every ambition. Go as far as you possibly can dream. And be the first generation to embrace a new responsibility. A responsibility to rebuild your class of 2020, the world has you will determine how we and I ask that you make your community your priority. Congratulations, class of 2020. I love all of you," he concluded. "And remember one thing, you're all kings and queens."
James put on the event with his LeBron James Family Foundation in conjunction with the XQ Institute and the Entertainment Industry Foundation Partner.
Graduate Together gave students a proper send-off after the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the school year. Former president Barack Obama delivered some hope and inspiring words to students, while the Jonas Brothers, Bad Bunny, H.E.R, Pharrell Williams, and more entertained the viewers. The hour-long event also included student speeches and special shout-outs to teachers.