RI's Virtual Graduation Ceremony

Your Year 2020
Posted on 06/15/2020


The commencement airs on Rhode Island PBS on Monday, June 15 at 7 p.m.

Your Year

Rhode Island’s high school class of 2020 got robbed. No prom, no senior week, no pomp and circumstance. The coronavirus pandemic has taken a lot from us — our health, our sense of security and, tragically, our loved ones — but, through social distancing, our high school seniors lost something the rest of us can cherish in the tough times: memories. It’s not life or death, but it’s still a sacrifice.

Enter our hero, Viola Davis. On June 15, the Academy, Emmy and Tony award-winner will deliver a commencement address to the state’s graduating seniors in “Your Year 2020,” broadcast at 7 p.m. on Rhode Island PBS. Davis grew up poor in Central Falls, attended Rhode Island College for acting, earned her way into Julliard and has since become one of the nation’s greatest actors.

viola davis

Viola Davis. Photograph by Kevin Winter/Getty.


“I go to Rhode Island all the time,” Davis told us in an extensive interview published in 2018, “and I see that blonde woman waiting for that RIPTA bus, and she’s got her brown-skinned baby with the afro. And that’s how you see the changing face of America. And what is out there for her? What is out there for him? What’s out there for me? I always use my daughter as the example. I tell her stories at night, and a lot of times I make it up. And she always says, ‘Mommy, put me in the story. I want to be in the story.’ So I’m putting her in the story.”

Monday night, she’ll put our more than 9,000 high school graduates in the story, too — ones who may have felt left out of the narrative and isolated over the last three months. June 15 is their night, where Davis will join local and national celebrities, school leaders and local politicians in lauding them for their accomplishments.

Governor Gina Raimondo, Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green, Rhode Island House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Rhode Island Senate President Dominick J. Ruggerio are set to deliver opening remarks, then Davis will deliver the keynote commencement speech. The broadcast also features video compilations by graduating seniors, musical numbers by finalists in a student song competition and speeches by class valedictorians. Rhode Island-born singers Billy Gilman and Erika Van Pelt will also perform.

Other Rhode Island-connected celebrities — including journalist Meredith Vieira, Olympic swimmer Elizabeth Beisel, director and producer Seth MacFarlane and New England Patriots’ Julian Edelman, James White and Jarrett Stidham — have recorded video messages to inspire graduating seniors.

Tune into the live event Monday, June 15 at 7 p.m. on Rhode Island PBS (channel 8 for many of us), stream it online at ripbs.org/stream or listen in on Coast 93.3. If you miss the live special, catch the audio encore on Coast 93.3 Sunday, June 21 at noon or stream the recorded event at ripbs.org/youryear2020.

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