Pharrell Williams welcomed nearly 400 new alumni at Norfolk State University as the commencement speaker during the university fall ceremony. 

“I didn’t attend Norfolk State, but I was always present,” Williams said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “The pull of the green and the gold is strong. I am honored to have made this part of my work, my story and still today, I can’t wait to see how far you amazing, impressive graduates of Norfolk State … how far you’ll go.”

During Pharrell Williams’ speech, he shared many gems with students. The acclaimed producer encouraged students to put their dollars toward local businesses prioritizing their needs and to embrace language that empowers people of color. 

“We are the emerging majority,” Williams said, according to The Virginian-Pilot. “Don’t wait until Election Day. Vote with your wallets today, tomorrow and the next day. Does the business owner look like you? Shop there.”

Pharrell Williams Wants The Next Generation To Be The Change

Pharrell Williams hopes students never lose sight of their value and hopes the next generation will hold policymakers accountable.

“These days it’s different. Regardless of blue or red on a state level, they are finally realizing that black is a force when it comes to business, and it’s happening at Norfolk in a big way,” Pharell Williams said in the commencement address.

He continued: “Five years from now it will be a very different Norfolk and not because of the will and taste of one man but because scores of young people and new business owners are demanding decentralized decision making, a seat at the table, more options, and more accountability from their local politicians.”

Pharrell Williams Receives Special Honors

After Williams’ speech, he was presented with an honorary doctorate by Norfolk University President Javaune Adams-Gaston. Williams also received another accolade as he was named an honorary member of Norfolk’s marching band, the Spartan Legion along with a band uniform to seal the deal.