IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Obama tells graduates, 'Doing what feels good, what's convenient, what's easy, that's how little kids think.'

The special event on all major networks followed an earlier commencement speech in which he slammed President Donald Trump's administration for its response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Get more newsLiveon

Former President Barack Obama gave a virtual commencement address to graduating high school seniors across the country 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 included appearances by numerous musical 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 little kids think," Obama said. "Unfortunately a lot of so-called grownups, 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 be livestreamed on NBC News as well as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. It is produced by Done + Dusted and James' SpringHill Entertainment.

Image: LeBron James
LeBron James during a preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets as part of 2019 NBA Global Games China at Mercedes-Benz Arena on Oct. 10, 2019 in Shanghai, China.Lintao Zhang / Getty Images file

"These students have worked incredibly hard for this and there’s no way we can let that go unrecognized," James said in a statement. "While this won’t be the graduation experience they were supposed to get, we hope we can still give them something special because they deserve it."

The focus of the commencements is on graduating students, but Obama's words might garner much interest as well.

Earlier Saturday, Obama participated in another virtual commencement ceremony for graduates of historically black colleges and universities and offered his most public and direct criticism yet of the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

"More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing," Obama said. "A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge."

During the evening address, the former president expressed pride in the class of 2020, especially because "the world is turned upside down by a global pandemic," he said.

"You’re going to have to grow up 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 endorsed Joe Biden in April after refusing to state a candidate preference during the Democratic primary. He has largely remained tightlipped about criticizing his successor in the White House.

The former president is also set to share a message earlier Saturday during a livestreamed, virtual event at 2 p.m. ET hosted by Kevin Hart that features numerous black celebrities and business leaders. The event will honor the 27,000 students graduating from 78 historically black colleges and universities.

“I’ve always loved joining commencements — the culmination of years of hard work and sacrifice,” Obama wrote on Twitter earlier this month. “Even if we can’t get together in person this year, Michelle and I am excited to celebrate the nationwide Class of 2020 and recognize this milestone with you and your loved ones.”

The former president is slated to give a third commencement address on June 6 with Michelle Obama in an event hosted by YouTube.