Jimmy Fallon, surprise commencement speaker at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's graduation ceremony Sunday, thanked the 784 members of the class of 2018 for their bravery and urged them to "persevere in the face of difficulty."
The "Tonight Show" host struck a balance of solemnity and levity, according to parents' and students' social media posts.
He thanked students, too, for their activism after the shooting that killed 17 Feb. 14 at the Parkland school. The ceremony, held at the BB&T Center, Florida Panthers' home venue, honored the four seniors slain -- Nicholas Dworet, Joaquin Oliver, Meadow Pollack and Carmen Schentrup.
"When something feels hard, remember that it gets better," Fallon told graduates. "Choose to move forward. Don’t let anything stop you."
He joked that graduates should first “lay off the carbs. ..."
“Second, I would say, is listen. Listen to everyone around you. Hear other voices. There’re so many different voices in the world.”
Tweeted CNN National Correspondent Dianne Gallagher, "One parent texted us 'He’s making me cry & laugh'."
A teacher told CNN that attendees were brought to tears when students sang a song written in the aftermath of the shooting.
The ceremony featured a long moment of silence and tributes to classmates killed.
The families of the four seniors killed accepted diplomas in their place. Graduates wore sashes that read "MSD Strong." Some had decorated their graduation mortarboards to honor their late classmates or push for new gun laws.
Student activist David Hogg spray-painted his mortarboard orange, the color for National Gun Violence Awareness Week. Instead of the customary tassel, he used a $1.05 price tag, which he claims symbolizes the amount of money each student in Florida is worth to NRA-backed Sen. Marco Rubio.
The Miami Herald reported Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin was killed, accepted her son's diploma wearing a shirt that read, "This should be my son."
“... Remember those not with us, and celebrate all the successes the Class of 2018 has brought to the community and the world! Congrats!” tweeted MSDHS Principal Ty Thompson.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith
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