Pharrell Williams delivered an impassioned speech to the University of Virginia's class of 2019.
Serving as the keynote speaker at Friday's graduation ceremony, the multi-hyphenate emphasized the importance and blessings of education and encouraged graduates to use their experiences at UVa to make the world a better place. Pharrell touched on issues like immigration and the rise of white supremacy, both of which have led to significant U.S. tensions and divide. The Virginia native reminded the crowd that in order to make their lives better, they must reject apathy and "make life better for others." He underscored this point with a Game of Thrones reference.
"We have to continuously remind ourselves that life is not Game of Thrones," he said (8:25 mark). "I mean, I love Game of Thrones. Game of Thrones has taught us a lot, but we seem all too comfortable applying the same cycle of empathy, then apathy, then sympathy and at times frustration that we’ve felt watching a show over the years to issues that are very, very real. It is just a show. It is not real."
Pharrell continued: "But you know what is real? The plight of illegal immigrants. You know how it goes: A headline grabs our attention. We see the news [...] We want to help. Then the news cycle shifts. The algorithm goes to work. Apathy sets in. We tune out, and move on. But unlike a TV show, their plight is real. It’s not improving. Those tiki torches are real. They are here —emboldened—but the news moves on. When the stories are real, we cannot afford to just move on. We cannot let the algorithm continue to distract and even worse, divide us. Because it is. Algorithms have no conscious, but you do."
You can watch Pharrell's full address above.