John Waters’ RISD Graduation Speech: Real Wealth is Never Having to Spend Time with A-Holes

John Waters’ rollicking commencement speech at The Rhode Island School of Design offered up some good one-liners and a few pearls of wisdom, though phrased, quite naturally, in an irreverent way. Ready for some sage advice on what really counts as wealth? And what career choices will make you truly wealthy? Mr. Waters has this to say:

Uh, don’t hate all rich people. They’re not all awful. Believe me, I know some evil poor people, too. We need some rich people: Who else is going to back our movies or buy our art? I’m rich! I don’t mean money-wise. I mean that I have figured out how to never be around assholes at any time in my personal and professional life. That’s rich. And not being around assholes should be the goal of every graduate here today.

It’s OK to hate the poor, too, but only the poor of spirit, not wealth. A poor person to me can have a big bank balance but is stupid by choice – uncurious, judgemental, isolated and unavailable to change.

I’m also sorry to report there’s no such thing as karma. So many of my talented great friends are dead and so many of the fools I’ve met and loathed are still alive. It’s not fair, and it never will be.

Like I said, irreverently phrased. But when stripped down to their basics, some very good principles to live by.

Watch the speech above; read the complete transcript here.

via Dangerous Minds

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‘This Is Water’: Complete Audio of David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon Graduation Speech (2005)


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  • marga dieter says:

    My good fortune led me to Provincetown on tuesday –
    I saw you buy groceries at the little store where i got to pick up your sales slip
    It was the touch stone – a little connection

    My lucky day – thanks for your kind smile.
    I see why A- holes don’t appeal to you.

    i appreciate you being in the world – makes it safe – marga

  • ML says:

    John Waters is vile and his films are vile. The killing of animals in movies is cruel and disgusting. Horrible old man, rot in hell.

  • Reuben says:

    Of course the killing of animals is horrible; in life OR in movies. But are you suggesting that John Waters sanctions such killing? If so, I’m
    unaware that that is so.
    I hope not.
    And what’s “old” man to do with it or with anything? Old is old, having nothing to do with your concern for the welfare of animals.

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