Pharrell Williams received an honourary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from New York University on Wednesday, and gave a commencement address during the graduation ceremony, held at Yankee Stadium.
In his speech, the “Happy” singer had a lot to say about education, and described himself as “forever a student” before sending a shoutout to his mother. “I’m very grateful,” he said while wearing the traditional cap and gown. “My mom is a lifelong educator, so this is gonna be a really good look for me.”
Williams also emphasized the importance of gender equality to the generation of students about to enter the work force.
“As you find 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. “Imagine the possibilities when we remove imbalance from the ether, because it’s imbalanced right now. Imagine the possibilities when women are not held back.”
He went on to praise the students for their generation’s values. “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,” he added. “The world that you’re living [in] will be a lot better for it. This is the first generation that navigates the world with the security and the confidence to treat women as equal. 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.”
Concluding his speech, Williams addressed the possibility that a future president of the United States could be among this year’s graduates.
“I know that somebody out there right now, in this class, just might occupy the White House one day,” he said. “And let me be clear, not red and not blue, but maybe purple, like NYU.”