Saturday, May 30, 2009

Commencement Speech for the Class of 2009

Hi Everyone.

I know most people read this blog waiting for new art and sketches. But I hope you won't mind a few more words. 

I'll let this stand here as an Ebenezer to the last four years spent at RISD. Here's the commencement speech I delivered today for my classmates and friends in the class of 2009. It was an amazing day; the kind you don't forget. Anybody reading from RISD: I love you guys. Sincerely. 

Commencement Speech for the Class of 2009:

Thank you all so much for the incredible privilege it is to speak today.


There are two RISDs

That's something that I‘m sure some of those gathered here may not be aware of, but I think it's incredibly important to mention that truth today.

On one hand we are a rigorous and prestigious academic institution,

alma mater to many influential alumni, boasting a very impressive museum and a list of programs and credentials longer than your attention span.


On the other hand, our mascot's a penis.


I'm sorry, parents, if you weren't aware of this fact. His name is Scrotie, and he's not on any of the brochures.

Our hockey team's called the Nads, our campus plays host to a yearly invasion of students in monster-suits disturbing the peace, and every spring a growing number of students drench themselves in fake blood and march down Thayer street as a zombie horde.


We are smelly, under-slept art students who dance in the streets, work until morning, and shower only as soon as soon as the next portfolio review rolls onto campus.


Now, my purpose is not for a moment to put down the academic side of this school. We owe so much to the dignity and legitimacy of what RISD represents.


Here's what I mean to say: that the graffiti on the walls is as much a part of RISD as the paint that covers it back up.


If you’ve ever had the fortune of meeting someone you fall in love with, isn't it curious how you never fall in love with their list of credentials? You love them for all their quirks and idiosyncrasies, for when they are noble and when they are silly. Warts and all.


So I am here to tell you that RISD has warts and that I love them.

I love them so much, I would stand up in front of all of you to say so.

And I would be completely remiss if I stood up here and glossed over the beating heart of what this class has made of it.

It would be a disservice to all the long nights each and every student has spent laboring to attain this day.


It is a day full of much reflecting on what has been gained from our four years spent here.

So parents, I hope you won't feel scandalized to know that the most of what you've been paying for was so that we could meet each other.

I may walk out of here with loans to pay till I've got children of my own to send to college, but I will pay my part gladly knowing that the experience of being here and the friends I have made are worth the work and the cost.


And I’ve just attended my loan exit meeting, so I know what I’m talking about.


I can't imagine RISD without my friends and the people who have made this campus what it is. To me, the legacy of this place will be its people. I will walk away today knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is the face of a friend I will remember before I recall the diploma in my hand.


I will remember the professors willing enough to stay behind the extra hours, long after pay and duty demanded, to keep teaching the students that were still hungry to learn.

I will remember the friends who stuck around when the night was wearing on and all that was needed was a friendly hug and a word of encouragement to keep going.

I will remember the alumni of this institution that have cared enough for the future of the undergraduates to pass on a portfolio and put in a good word.

I will remember every way in which the people here have gone above and beyond to help, love, and assist.

What's so shocking is not that we have one of the highest freshman workloads in the United States, it's that some of those freshman still find the time to come along after class has ended during finals and pass out food and coffee to exhausted classmates.


If you have come to this place looking just for a grade and a pretty piece of paper, then I'm not sure you're at the right graduation ceremony. I can't imagine that anyone has endured freshman foundations, countless all-nighters, and work-parties just to boost their GPA. The RISD experience is more than the sum of its parts, and its parts are amazing, so that's saying a lot.

And who could know that more than we do? If a painting weren’t worth more than the canvas it’s painted on, who could stomach the RISD store bills?

RISD is more than the halls of its dormitories, the rigorous academic workload, and the picture-lined walls of its museum, and that means everything.

This diploma signifies more than the money spent on gouache, countless shirts rendered unwearable by charcoal, and sleep that never seemed to happen.

And it's that little bit more that's worth all the other bits combined.

It's the mad energy of this place that comes from the love and passion of those who pour themselves into this school. It's beautiful and I am proud to have been a part of it.


For my part, I can say un-ironically: it's been an absolute privilege to be here.


RISD has been the first place I have ever felt so completely accepted for who I am.

I am not sure there's another place like it out there in the real world.

I certainly aim to either find out, or make one of my own.

I will never forget the people I've met here or the lessons I've learned, and I am truly grateful for the blessing it has been to attend.

I hope, while I have been here I have given back something to the community in some meaningful way.

I congratulate all of you, my friends and our families gathered here and everyone who helped to bring the class of 2009 to this last day. Sleep or no sleep: we've made it. I have been honored to sing, dance, cry, joke, and make art with you. Let's not stop.


May God bless you all as richly as I have been blessed just to know you.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.



Devarius said...

RISD could not have been summed up better. The fact that I can relate to almost all of those things after only my first year says so much about our school (and a bit about myself). This makes me all the more excited for the next three years; and Nick, you really have been an incredible role model to me, especially as a fellow fantasy-nerd illustration major, and I really mean that as sincerely as I can get. I wish you all the best for your forays into the "real world", and I eagerly await to see where your path takes you- I know it will be somewhere great.



(PS - I'm in doing a theatre program at Brown around the same time as pre-college, and I hear you'll be in Boston. I'll be sure to swing by sometime if you're free)

Josh Chodorow said...


It's always nice to see someone step up and take the time to craft a heartfelt senior speech. I know in the past it's been more of a hot potato, and while I did not get to see you deliver it, reading it, I think you nailed it.

Hope to see you in Boston this summer.

Cheers and Congratulations on graduation!

Anonymous said...

Hey Nick,
I don't know you. But, from this speech, you sound like an amazing guy. Infinite congratulations on graduating. Cherish the friends you've made and don't forget the memories.
My prayers are with you for the road ahead.
God Bless,