Everyone knows Pharrell Williams loves to represent Virginia to the fullest. Not long ago he put on his successful “Something In The Water” festival in his home state, and he recently returned to visit the graduating class of the University of Virginia. Hoping to inspire them with a moving speech, the 46-year-old music icon delivered a keynote address at 2019’s Valedictory Exercises that they’ll remember for the remainder of their days.
Pharrell admitted that Virginia has a “complicated history,” a mention that is certain to include the legalization of slavery and the white nationalist rally that ended in a murder back in 2017. Yet, he also stated that Virginians have gone on to do great things in a variety of vocations, business endeavors, and artistic efforts. “Virginia has continued to produce icons, and I know that there are a bunch of future icons in this room waiting to reveal yourself,” Pharrell said. “But my deep love for Virginia and for its people does not blind me to the fact that there is also troubled water here. In fact, my love for Virginia heightens my awareness that Virginia has a complicated history, a history that continues to shape the present.”
“The world needs you. In fact, I think the world could use a little more Virginia,” he said as the audience cheered. “We ended slavery—you would think we’d be tired of telling other humans what they can and cannot do with their bodies. Haven’t we learned our lessons about trying to govern human bodies?” the musician asked as an obvious nod to the recent controversy surrounding Alabama’s abortion ban.
“I personally believe that positivity is something that we should bottle up because the world as we know it, and we see it, needs it,” he continued. “The good thing is your generation knows all of this already. I am just here to nudge you again as you move on from classrooms to boardrooms. When I look out, I see thinkers, innovators, rule breakers. I see ambition. I see energy. I see bold, audacious dreams that are bound to disrupt,” he added. “History has been anticipating you. Don’t keep it waiting any longer, 2019…and definitely don’t fail to make your mark.”