Pharrell Williams received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from NYU and was chosen to give the commencement speech for the university’s class of 2017 at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday 17.
The rapper, songwriter, music producer and former artist in residence at Tisch School of the Arts touched some important subjects in his inspiring speech, such as gender equality and education.
He started by thanking everyone for the “humbling experience” of the past year, stressing how important it was for him to get the chance to know and share with the NYU students. “I like to say that I am forever a student, and it’s people like this that I’ll forever learn from. They are fearless, boundless, multi-disciplined and multi-talented.”
In his speech Pharrell spoke about the new environment the graduates were entering as well as the importance of amplifying and uplifting women: “Your generation is unraveling deeply entrenched laws, principals, and misguided values that have held women back for far too long and, therefore, have held us all back.”
“Speaking to you guys today has me charged up,” he continued as he began to praise the women in the audience. “As you find your ways to serve humanity, it gives me great comfort knowing this generation is the first that understands that we need to lift up our women,” he said, followed by rousing applause from the crowd. “Imagine the possibilities when we remove imbalance from the ether. Imagine the possibilities when women are not held back. Your generation is unraveling deeply entrenched laws, principles, and misguided values that have held women back for far too long and, therefore, have held us all back – the human race. The world you will live in will be better for it.”
“This is the first generation that navigates the world with the security and the confidence to treat women as equal,” he continued. “You guys and gals are the first ever. I’m going to say that again, you guys are the first ever. Our country has never seen this before. And it makes some people uncomfortable. But still I say, just imagine the possibilities.”
Williams also shared his views on education
The rapper dedicated part of his speech to talk about education, and how important it is to always aim higher and to demand better education. He tried to inspire students to never stop learning, even far beyond graduation.
“To the graduates, you might think your time in education is done, but after you leave here today, I am asking you to let your actions out there in the world… fuel the demand for better education,” he said.
“Be humble, but not too humble. Don’t be invisible,” he said about speaking out loud about their accomplishments. “The days of being an anonymous activist or participant are over. How can we inspire if we are only behind the scenes? How will an anonymous donation ever inspire another? That was the way of previous generations. Don’t be like them. Let your actions serve as an endorsement for education and watch the demand rise.”
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He concluded by addressing the current graduates with inspiring words on their potential. “I know that somebody out there right now, in this class, just might occupy the White House one day,” Pharrell said. “And let me be clear, not red and not blue, but maybe purple, like NYU.”