Chano wanted to provide an inspiring message to the graduates, so he pulled from Yoncé’s Coachella performance, calling it the greatest of all time. “This was the greatest performance of all time,” he said. “She did so much and she did it with military precision…She was the culmination of every black child who has dedicated their lives to art and performance, to shine and relish in their excellence.”
He looked out into the crowd and said that the next great performer could outdo Queen Bey. “Beyoncé had [Michael Jackson], Mike had James Brown, James Brown had Cab Calloway,” he added. “Right now, the greatest performer who ever lived might very well be in this audience and that person has something Beyoncé never had. They got Beyoncé. You have the greatest performance of all time, to watch, study, and learn from it, but not to replicate it, to surpass it.”
He went on to call Bey’s Coachella performance greater than any Michael Jackson performance, a comment that sparked backlash on social media. “I realized that all of us have a responsibility to be greater than the people who came before us. We have a responsibility to be not as good as them or live up to their example, but to actually surpass them, even when it feels scary,” he said. “We have to overcome that fear and be greater than our role models. Beyoncé’s performance was better than any performance Michael Jackson ever did. That woman better than Mike. Black woman better than Mike. I said it.”
During Saturday’s commencement ceremony, Dillard also presented the 25-year-old Chicago MC with an honorary doctorate degree “for his philanthropy and continued service to the youth.”
Watch his full speech below.