Pharrell Williams urges class of 2019 to be the change

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Singer, music producer, fashion designer, and businessman, Pharrell Williams, spoke at the 2019 University of Virginia Valedictory Exercises on Friday.

Although many people know Pharrell from his impact in the music industry, his speech made it clear he is also an activist, and he urged the class of 2019 to be activists too.

The event began with awards being presented to students who made a difference at the university.

"To the bicentennial class of 2019, thank you for being the most inspiring, uplifting, and tenacious classmates anyone can ask for,” said Rebecca Soistmann, Vice President of the class of 2019.

When Pharrell took the stage, he asked all of the graduates to continue to make a difference in the world.

“The only way to make life better for yourself,” said Pharrell, “the only true and lasting way to do that, is to make life better for others."

The Virginia native, who helped put on a Concert for Charlottesville after the August 2017 Unite the Right Rally, applauded the graduates for their resilience.

"Your generation is rising to the occasion,” said Pharrell. “Look at what's happened since 2017 with this school alone. It's been amazing what you guys have been doing."

He brought up several social and political issues in the country, such as abortion, racism, and immigration. He told the class of 2019 that they are the ones who are going to put an end to these issues.

"I've met Oprah and I've met Obama, but you know who I actually believe have the best shot at fixing things? You,” said Pharrell.

He said the graduates will accomplish social justice with their degrees.

"Education is the answer,” said Pharrell. “Education is the death blow to discrimination."

He told the stadium that change will start in Virginia.

"Class of 2019 please, history has been anticipating you,” said Pharrell. “Don't keep it waiting any longer 2019. And definitely, don't fail to make your mark."

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