John Waters’ RISD Graduation Speech: Real Wealth Is Life Without 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.

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via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Robert De Niro Tells Grad­u­at­ing NYU Arts Grads, “You Made It… And You’re F*cked”

David Byrne’s Grad­u­a­tion Speech Offers Trou­bling and Encour­ag­ing Advice for Stu­dents in the Arts

Jim Car­rey Com­mence­ment Speech: It’s Bet­ter to Fail at What You Love Than Fail at What You Don’t

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

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Comments (7)
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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.

  • ignas bednarczyk says:

    So rich & poor is the judge­men­tal lev­el from which ideas set off ? Like, Amer­i­cans & Rus­sians, or fat peo­ple & thin. So, the con­trast is made, to cre­ate two groups for com­par­i­son. O.K. the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, as long as you don’t take it seri­ous­ly. I said your last para­graph when I was 16 in a state run 6th grade school in Eng­land. But I would not have said it in my grad­u­a­tion speech- my col­lege was­n’t one which had grad­u­a­tion days. Just a sort of par­ty- which I did­n’t attend. It was that poor. Your say­ing its o.k. to hate, well.… usu­al­ly that means some­one is going to get hurt, which isn’t just.
    Point is, this is an insu­lar speech from a trib­al stand- the tribe of some col­lege I’ve nev­er even heard of, but its in Open Cul­ture because its Rhode Island- the tribe of Rhode Island. I think Democ­ra­cy came in from trib­al­ism to unite peo­ple in larg­er num­bers before the time of Christ so it was a tribe to begin. Genghis Khan made such a huge empire the term tribe became obso­lete, because there were no oth­er tribes to oppose it. Now who does this fel­low, John Waters, oppose ? The poor ? Does he, like Lyn­don John­son, wish to fol­low in the steps of Genghis? Well, only on a bad day.…if you twist his arm.….maybe, evil. So evil is not the con­cept of wealth prac­ticed in the face of increased pover­ty & depri­va­tion in Amer­i­ca ?

  • Post Cancel says:

    This is hard­ly the forum from crit­i­cism Ignas. This is obvi­ous­ly full of rhetoric aimed at the audi­ence it was writ­ten for. The cur­rent pop-cul­ture art lis­tic move­ment has become a hideous, under devel­oped trash pile with such lit­tle innate skill in the artists it prais­es. I some­times won­der why I spent a for­tune to attend a Pri­vate Uni­ver­si­ty for my Sculp­ture and Instal­la­tion degree years ago, but then I guess life would­n’t be what it is with­out mak­ing mis­takes. It would make sense that he would write a speech that is so obvi­ous­ly and pur­pose­ful­ly over-exag­ger­at­ed and then deliv­er it in such a fac­ti­tious tone. Just a thought.

    Oh and ‘Your’ should be ‘You’re’ (as in, you are), and add a lit­tle punc­tu­a­tion for Fuck Sake this isn’t Twit­ter.

    – Can­cel

  • mary says:

    Kind of iron­ic since hes in the land of the well known Mass­holes lol!

  • jay says:

    John Waters is ALWAYS iron­ic. But the makes some very good points here.

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