The special event across all major networks followed an earlier kickoff speech in which it criticized President Donald Trump's administration for its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Obama tells graduates: Do what feels good, what is convenient, what is easy, this is how young children think.
Former President Barack Obama gave a virtual graduation speech to high school seniors graduating across the country on Saturday night during a televised event hosted by NBA star LeBron James.
It was part of a special called "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020" that featured appearances by numerous music stars, celebrities, and athletes, including the Jonas Brothers, Megan Rapinoe, Pharrell Williams, Maren Morris, and Malala Yousafzai.
"Doing what feels good, what's convenient, what's easy, that's how young children think," Obama said. "Unfortunately, many of the so-called adults, including some with fancy titles, important jobs, still think that way, which is why things are so screwed up."
The event aired on NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX simultaneously at 8 p.m. ET. It was also streamed live on NBC News, as well as on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. It is produced by Done + Dusted and James' SpringHill Entertainment.
"These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there is no way we can leave that unacknowledged," James said in a statement. "While this will not be the graduation experience they were supposed to get, we hope we can give them something special because they deserve it."
The beginning focus is on graduating students, but Obama's words can also generate a lot of interest.
Earlier Saturday, Obama participated in another virtual graduation ceremony for historically black college and university graduates and offered his most direct and public criticism of the coronavirus pandemic so far in the Trump administration.
"More than anything, this pandemic has completely broken the curtain on the idea that many of those responsible know what they are doing," Obama said. "Many of them don't even pretend to be in charge."
During the afternoon speech, the former president expressed his pride for the class of 2020, especially because "the world is turned upside down by a global pandemic," he said.
"You are going to have to grow faster than some generations," he said.
Obama's private criticism of the Trump administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak, which he called an "absolute chaotic disaster," made headlines last week.
Obama backed Joe Biden in April after refusing to establish a candidate preference during the Democratic primaries. He has remained largely closed about criticizing his successor in the White House.
The former president is also set to share a message earlier Saturday during a virtual event broadcast live at 2 p.m. ET hosted by Kevin Hart featuring numerous black celebrities and business leaders. The event will honor the 27,000 students who graduated from 78 historically black colleges and universities.
"I have always loved joining the beginnings, the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice," Obama wrote on Twitter earlier this month. "Even if we can't meet in person this year, Michelle and I are excited to celebrate the 2020 National Class and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones."
The former president is slated to give a third graduation speech on June 6 with Michelle Obama at an event hosted by YouTube.
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