Pharrell Williams to the Class of 2019: ‘You Guys Are Going to Change the World’

The University of Virginia graduation weekend kicked off with serious star power on 17 May, as entrepreneur and musician Pharrell Williams delivered the valedictory address to a packed crowd in John Paul Jones Arena.

Williams, a Virginia native, touched on a variety of issues, from the plight of oppressed people to the importance of helping others get ahead.

Williams asked members of the audience to raise their hands if they had ever been made to feel they were less than equal. He then raised his hand, and hundreds of others went up and stayed up as he continued.

“Keep your hands up,” he said. “Look at these graduates with their hands up. They’ve accomplished what others told them they never would. Despite some strong, strong forces conspiring to hold them back, here they are. You win. Look at you. You win.”

In a skin-tingling moment, Williams asked the crowd, “Do you guys feel that power of Virginia in this room? Enjoy that feeling. That’s empathy!


THIS IS VIRGINIA,” he intoned.

Watch Williams’ full address and read a full account on UVA Today.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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