NEW YORK, NY - MAY 17: Pharrell Williams speaks during the New York University 2017 Commencement at Yankee Stadium on May 17, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)
Dia Dipasupil—Getty Images
By Catherine Trautwein
May 17, 2017

In his commencement speech celebrating New York University’s class of 2017, Grammy-winning musician and producer Pharrell Williams told the audience that attitudes about gender equality were changing thanks in part to their generation.

“As you find your ways to serve humanity, it gives me great comfort knowing that this generation is the first that understands that we need to lift up our women,” he told the crowd at Yankee Stadium Wednesday. Williams declined to label himself a feminist in 2014 but later changed his tune.

Williams, who produced the Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures about under-recognized black women working at NASA during the space race, told graduates their generation was dismantling laws and “misguided” values that have long held back women — and by extension, all people.

“This is the first generation that navigates the world with the security and the confidence to treat women as equal,” he said. “Our country has never seen this before, and it makes some people uncomfortable.” He added: “Just imagine the possibilities.”

Watch his full speech here.

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