06.12.2020|Inside Verizon

Recap of “Class of 2020: Ready For Anything” with Hugh Evans.

By: Kelley Haggert

Top Tips for Graduates from a Founder, Innovator, and Philanthropist.

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Class of 2020: #ReadyForAnything A Commencement Series

Verizon continued its virtual commencement series, “Class of 2020: Ready for Anything,” with Hugh Evans, Co-founder and CEO, Global Citizen. Some of the top takeaways:

As a mission-driven entrepreneur -- one who has dedicated his life to eradicating extreme poverty and devastating illnesses around the world -- Hugh spoke of conviction, perseverance, and finding individual purpose and power when it feels like all the cards are stacked against you. He recognized commencement as an important day for graduates, their families, teachers, and all those who helped the students throughout their academic journeys. He impressed upon the graduates how they hold the power to build the world back up to better than it was before, with freedom and justice for all.

Along his own path, Hugh has experienced a few realizations, namely that most journeys are unexpected and unconventional -- and that is to be embraced. As a teenager, Hugh traveled to the slums of the Smokey Mountains in Manila and was placed in the care of a family there, making friends with their son, Sunny Boy. As he lay down to sleep on a concrete slab, the smell of rubbish and cockroaches crawling around him, he reflected on the “lottery of life”; how by pure chance he was born in Melbourne and his new friend was born into far more difficult circumstances. That night changed his life forever.

Inspired by the teachings of Mother Teresa, he went on to spend a year studying in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in India. It was frightening and lonely. He was out of his depth. But it was then that he realized we wouldn’t solve these complex global problems through charity alone. We needed a movement to drive sustainable change. And this set him on a course to build and co-found Global Citizen; a movement of young people catalyzed to battle the prevailing and pernicious issues of our time like COVID-19, and social injustice and inequality. Combined, these have created a time of unparalleled uncertainty, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. And graduates should be commended for completing their studies in the face of such challenges.

Hugh’s second realization was understanding that you’re on the edge of a breakthrough when failure is a real possibility and sometimes when it is highly likely. His vision has always been to free the world from extreme poverty and he moved to New York City in September 2010 to expand his impact and start a new chapter in the U.S. Hugh spun up an ambitious concert in Central Park but, six weeks before the event date, the sponsor pulled out and they had no headline artist. They pressed on and through a series of introductions -- six degrees of separation, if you will -- they pulled it off with a $1.5M corporate investment and a Neil Young mainstage appearance. Tens years later, through the grace and goodwill of musical artists, the Global Citizen movement has traveled around the world as the Global Citizen Festival, raising awareness and millions of dollars. Most recently raising $127.9M for frontline community health workers fighting COVID-19 in One World Together At Home -- the most money ever raised by a virtual concert.

Hugh has been asked, was it all too risky? They put all their eggs in one basket with the original concert -- played all their cards in one hand. But, says Hugh, when it is the hardest, that’s when you’re closest to a breakthrough. It’s a moment of inflection. We are at the cusp of a great restart and you -- the Class of 2020 -- are at the center of it. Every moment counts right now. Failure is not an option. We need to fight to create the world we want right now: a world of justice and equity of opportunity. He called on graduates to summon their courage and put everything on the line to achieve your higher goal.

Here you are, graduates: after years of hard work, setbacks, perhaps even failures. But you pursued your goals and achieved success. While it may feel like it isn’t getting any easier, persevering and raising your voices is well worth the effort. You may think all is lost, but remember something great is waiting just around the corner. Stay strong, embrace failure, stick to your ideals. All of that is required for progress.

Moderator Julie Hyman, Anchor -- Yahoo Finance (L) and Hugh Evans, Global Citizen (R).

Standing up for anything can attract critics and detractors. All the more reason to be bold and assertive and use your voice to affect change. Say it clearly: Black Lives Matter. The status quo is unacceptable. Some issues really do transcend political lines. They are universal. They are issues of freedom, liberty, and justice, as we’ve seen demonstrated all around the world. Hugh encourages graduates to take the unconventional path and that you’re never too young to begin.

Class of 2020, you have the power to truly do something great. This is your moment. You’ve had the strength to push through these unbelievable challenges and achieve this significant milestone, and together we can now leave a legacy that changes the world for good. Congratulations!

Be sure to tune in to Verizon’s LinkedIn page today at 11:00 am ET for the final commencement in the series featuring Hans Vestberg, Chairman and CEO, Verizon, and former President Bill Clinton. #Commencement2020 #ReadyForAnything

For media inquiries, please contact Lauren Tilstra at lauren.tilstra@verizon.com or (908) 635-9099.

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