Oprah to bring pomp and circumstance to Chicago’s virtual graduation Sunday

Oprah Winfrey

Nine Chicago television stations are onboard to broadcast a star-studded virtual graduation ceremony for the city’s 35,000 high school seniors. Airing at 1 p.m. Sunday, it’s billed as “Graduation 2020: For Chicago. By Chicago.”

Hosted by Miguel Cervantes, star of the musical “Hamilton” in Chicago, the live one-hour special will feature a commencement address by Oprah Winfrey and appearances by performing artists (including hip hop star Common and Katie Kadan of “The Voice”), professional athletes and other celebrities.

Graduation 2020

The unprecedented event is being produced by ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 for the city of Chicago in partnership with Citadel, the financial services and investment company owned by billionaire Ken Griffin.

In addition to ABC 7, the special will air on CBS-owned WBBM-Channel 2, NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5, Nexstar Media Group WGN-Channel 9, Window to the World Communications WTTW-Channel 11, Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26, Fox-owned WFLD-Channel 32, Telemundo WSNS-Channel 44 and Univision WGBO-Channel 66. It also will air on Chicago Public Media WBEZ 91.5-FM among other radio stations.

“We are honored to not only produce this historic event for the city of Chicago’s graduating seniors, but we are pleased to be able to expand the virtual graduation past our broadcast on WLS and [digital platform] Localish, and offer it to all television and radio stations across the city of Chicago,” said John Idler, president and general manager of ABC 7.

“We are living in an unprecedented time, but that didn’t stop the class of 2020. WLS wants to ensure that we produce and deliver an exciting, heartfelt send-off that can be felt by all graduating seniors and their families wherever they are throughout the city, and one that will not be forgotten.”

In other special programming this weekend:

  • Cheryl Burton and Hosea Sanders will host “Chicago Proud: Graduation 2020: The After Party,” a live celebration following the virtual graduation ceremony, at 2 p.m. Sunday on ABC 7. Highlights will include a message from former President Barack Obama and interviews by Terrell Brown and Tanja Babich with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and actor Miguel Cervantes.
  • Amy Rutledge will host “Graduate Together, Celebrate Together: Class of 2020,” a half-hour special honoring Chicago’s graduates, at 11:30 a.m. Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday on Weigel Broadcasting WCIU-Channel 26. It will feature appearances by Judge Marilyn Milian, Tamron Hall, Steve Wilkos, Jerry Springer, whose shows air on CW26. It also will air at 12:30 p.m. Sunday on The U.
  • Laurence Holmes will host “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” featuring a panel of pro athletes including Jason Heyward, Allen Robinson, Thaddeus Young and Sam Acho, at 7 p.m. Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago. They’ll share their reactions to the death of George Floyd and comment on the state of race relations and the need for change. The special will be repeated at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.
  • Kimberley Egonmwan, afternoon co-host on Midway Broadcasting urban news/talk WVON 1690-AM, will moderate “Beyond Covid-19- Getting Black Communities the Resources We Need to Thrive” at 11 a.m. Saturday on Zoom. Participants in the policy forum, co-sponsored by WVON and the National Pan-Hellenic Council of Chicago, will include Lightfoot, Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and political strategist Delmarie Cobb, among others. (Here is the link to register.)

Thursday’s comment of the day: Matthew Sheehan: Boy, how awkward would that Peabody be if Dave Savini had been part of the CBS 2 axing a few weeks ago?