From Lady Gaga’s iconic meat dress in 2010 to a pandemic, this year’s graduates have witnessed some unforgettable moments in pop culture and political history.
Here are some highlights of the most memorable events of the graduates’ academic careers:
Kindergarten – 2003: Former President George Bush initiated a war on Iraq, placing troops on the ground in 2003 and gradually pulling out until 2011, when the Class of 2020 was in eighth grade. Bush argued that the war was necessary to protect the United States in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001.
First grade – 2004: As this year’s graduates were practicing addition and subtraction, Mark Zuckerburg launched Facebook after piloting the website for Harvard University students. The Class of 2020 probably wasn’t online yet, but Facebook was beginning to dominate the Internet and paved the way for outlets like Instagram and Twitter to become their own fixtures of the online world.
Second grade – 2005: Actors Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston filed for divorce while the Class of 2020 was in the middle of elementary school. The iconic couple had been married for four years after beginning their relationship in 1998. Shortly after their divorce, rumors floated that Angelina Jolie played a part in the couple’s divorce. Pitt and Jolie then married in 2014 but got divorced two years later.
Fourth grade – 2007: Pop icon Britney Spears made waves when she abruptly shaved her head during an emotional breakdown.
Fifth grade – 2008: They couldn’t vote yet, but graduates were likely coming off a trick-or-treating high when they witnessed the historic election of former President Barack Obama in November 2008. The 44th president of the United States was the first black man to hold the office and stayed in office until the Class of 2020 graduated high school in 2016.
Seventh grade – 2010: Singer and actress Lady Gaga took over the Internet when she showed up to accept the MTV Video Music Award for best music video wearing an outfit made of beef slices. Gaga told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper in an interview the next year that the meat dress was worn in protest of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited members of the military from openly talking about their sexual orientations.
Freshman year of high school – 2012: The Class of 2020 likely bonded with their high school friends dancing to South Korean singer Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music video, the first video to hit 1 billion views on YouTube. The song parodies the over-the-top wealth developing in Psy’s hometown of Gangnam, also known as the “Beverly Hills” of South Korea.
Sophomore year of high school – 2013: Jennifer Lawrence fell up the stairs at the Oscars en route to accept an award for best actress for her work in “Silver Linings Playbook.” At a press conference after the ceremony, Lawrence told Entertainment Tonight that the long white gown she wore made it difficult to walk up stairs.
Junior year of high school – 2014: As graduates were starting to brainstorm their dream colleges, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral. Thousands posted videos of themselves pouring ice cold water over their heads, helping to raise about $115 million for research on ALS, a disease affecting neurons in the spine and brain. The inspiration behind the challenge, Pete Frates, passed away from ALS last year.
Senior year of high school – 2015: The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal during the summer of 2015, as the Class of 2020 was brainstorming their college options. The White House was lit in rainbow colors, the signature colors of the pride flag, to celebrate the historic decision. Many students also gathered outside the Supreme Court building in support of the ruling.
Freshman year of college – 2016: President Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in a historic presidential race that ignited strong feelings across both sides of the aisle. The day after Trump’s inauguration, many of this year’s graduates joined nearly half a million people in marching on the National Mall in protest of Trump’s presidency.
Sophomore year of college – 2018: Kanye West’s notorious meltdown occurred in the TMZ newsroom after reporters pressed him on his decision to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat. During his 10-minute rant, West screamed at TMZ reporters that the media is controlling people’s thoughts and people need to make the choice to think freely.
Senior year of college – 2020: Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for obstruction of justice and obstruction of U.S. Congress. A whistleblower within the Central Intelligence Agency notified the U.S. government that Trump had attempted to obtain Ukraine’s investigation into Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden. The House voted to impeach Trump in February, but the Republican-controlled Senate did not vote in favor of impeachment, ending the months long process.
Senior year of college – 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic swept across the world, disrupting the Class of 2020’s senior year and graduation. Officials announced during spring break that classes would move online for at least the remainder of the semester and Commencement on the National Mall would be canceled.