John Waters Commencement Address – RISD 2015 from RISD Media on Vimeo.
Just moments after he was miraculously dubbed “Dr. John Waters,” the wonderfully irreverent filmmaker and cultural critic gave one of the most inspiring and spot-on RISD Commencement addresses in recent memory. Waters accepted an honorary degree from RISD – his first degree of any sort from anywhere – “without irony,” as he put it. At the podium the maker of Pink Flamingos, Hairspray and many other over-the-top films appeared to be totally in his element as he told the crowd that he’s surely qualified to be RISD’s Commencement speaker, especially given a short list of non-accomplishments and misdemeanors – and his early aspiration “to be one of the filthiest people alive.” “I’ve been called ‘The Prince of Puke’ by the press,” Waters smiled, “and most recently, a title I’m proud of: ‘The People’s Pervert.’ I am honored to be here today with my people.” In a bouncy speech (hear the full thing above) that kept the crowd of 3,500 graduates, families and guests laughing so hard that he had to pause from time to time to be heard, Waters pointed out that as unlikely as it might sound that RISD would offer him an honorary degree, “I didn’t change; society did.” Mostly he focused his attention on RISD’s 667 graduates, urging them not to hoard their talents. “Remember, you must participate in the creative world you want to become part of…. Keep up with what’s causing chaos in your own field…. Read, read, read. Spy, be nosy, eavesdrop!” Waters also reminded graduates that they shouldn’t hate all rich people, especially since someone needs to help fund their creative endeavors. “I’m rich,” he said, because “I have figured out how to never be around assholes at any time in my personal and professional life. That’s rich.” While targeted at RISD students in particular, Waters’ words seemed to resonate with the majority of the crowd packed into the RI Convention Center hall. “Go out into the world and fuck it up beautifully!” he urged.