iHeartRadio Celebrity Twist on Commencement

By KRISTEN SKINNER, Staff Writer

High school and college graduates alike do not have the luxury this year of walking across a stage to receive their diplomas, nor will they be able to have traditional parties with friends and family to celebrate their accomplishments. Forced to find new ways to reach the graduating classes, universities, streaming services and podcasts like iHeartRadio’s “Commencement: Speeches for the Class of 2020” are getting creative this graduation season. 

iHeartRadio’s podcast will debut on May 15, when speeches from celebrities, musicians, athletes, journalists, political figures, and well-known television and radio hosts will be available. The lineup features 30 different celebrities — some of whom include John Legend, Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Fallon and Eli Manning.  

The goal of these speeches is to motivate students and provide them with both the celebration and guidance they deserve as they graduate, move through the challenges of the pandemic and make their way to the next stages of their lives. Additionally, because there is a wide array of individuals giving speeches, the goal is to find someone inspiring for everyone interested.

Matt Di Vitto, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’20, said he would tune in for Hillary Clinton and Abby Wambach.

“What I think is cool about it is it is such a crazy, diverse set of people from a ton of different backgrounds,” he said. “That’s really helpful because no one knows what is happening, so if you have such a massive group trying to reach a broad group of people who are going through such a transition, then it is more likely to find some kind of consensus and something that will hit home.”

Di Vitto has been listening to podcasts like Pod Save America and playing games like Animal Crossing to help him feel more at ease with quarantine and with not having the same closure he would have had if he had concluded his senior year in-person.

Doctoral candidate in the psychology department at Fordham Jacomina Gerbrandij thinks this is a great alternative.

“With this initiative, iHeart Radio is basically giving many graduating students the opportunity to choose someone they personally admire to give their commencement speech,” she said. “As long as the celebrities/politicians seem authentic and transparent when talking about their own personal and professional development, including successes and failures, I believe they have great potential to shape graduating students’ next phase in life, and inspire students to become their best selves.”

It can be difficult to find ways to celebrate graduation at home and also difficult to plan what lies ahead. Even so, people around the world are doing what they can to make sure seniors in both high school and college are proud of their accomplishments and know there is hope for the future.