CHICAGO (CBSDC) — Kanye West expressed his appreciation for the phrase “I’m sorry,” which he opened his commencement speech at the Art Institute of Chicago with before receiving an honorary doctorate.
The hip-hop artist made the brief speech Monday as he was recognized for artistic achievement and made reference to his post-Hurricane Katrina comments about then-President George W. Bush during a telethon on live television. As he stood next to Mike Myers in 2005, West said “President Bush doesn’t care about black people.”
“I’m sorry, that was just my opinion. I’m a pop artist, so my medium is public opinion and the world is my canvas,” West said. “I’m sorry is something you can use a lot. It gives you the opportunity to give your opinion, apologize for it and give your opinion again. People say you should not be sorry for your opinion.
“George Bush has some very cool self-portraits. I didn’t know he was an artist,” he added.
Bush opened his debut art exhibition titled, “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy” in Texas last year. It featured 30 oil-on-gesso-board portraits of world leaders.
Laughter and applause subsided and West continued, “I felt my nerves a bit and I don’t feel that feeling a lot. The nerves of humility and modesty when being honored. A humanization, a reality of being recognized. And all I thought — as I sit here kind of shaking a bit — is I need to get rid of that feeling. I need to not be nervous.”
West concluded: “This honor is going to make your lives easier. Two reasons you don’t have to defend me as much and I’m going to make all of our lives easier. And it’s these Floyd Mayweather belts that are needed to prove what I’ve been saying my entire life. Whether it’s the co-sign of Paul McCartney grabbing me and saying, ‘It’s OK he doesn’t like white people,’ or The New York Times cover, or the Time most influential cover— and now a doctorate at the Art Institute of Chicago. When I was giving a lecture at Oxford I brought up this school. When I went on that mission to create in other spaces, apparel, film, performance—it would have been easier if I had a degree at the Art Institute of Chicago. Thank you.”
Bush told NBC News in an interview in 2010 that West’s comment was the worst moment of his presidency.
“He called me a racist. And I didn’t appreciate it then. I don’t appreciate it now,” Bush said. “It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t appreciate the way he’s handled his business.’ It’s another thing to say, ‘This man’s a racist.’ I resent it, it’s not true.”