In his address to the Queens College class of 2022 this morning, Mayor Eric Adams had a few words of wisdom. “Let your haters be your waiters when you sit down at the table of success,” he told the graduates.
Say it with me: “Let your haters be your waiters when you sit down at the table of success.” It gets a little wordy towards the end there, but otherwise it’s a pretty catchy turn of phrase. There’s a good rhyme, a fairly clear metaphor, and it forecasts a future full of power to the person hearing it. That’s probably why Adams has been saying it for at least seven years straight. It is his Real Housewives tagline.
From what I can tell, Adams came up with this expression himself. There seems to be no song, movie, or book that contains the phrase. If you look it up, you will either get news items about Mayor Adams or Quora posts about how to tell if your waiter is going to spit in your food. (The Mayor’s Office has not responded to a request for comment as to whether the city’s vegan-in-chief was the originator of the maxim.)
What we do know is that Adams has been saying this since at least 2015, when he was Brooklyn Borough President. Here is one person quoting him saying it on November 18, 2015:
And another person tweeting the same quote a day later, on November 19 (it’s unclear whether or not he said this at two separate events):
Three years later, in 2018, Adams tried out his soon-to-be catchphrase at a commencement for the first time. According to a Facebook post from the school, he told graduates at Brooklyn College to, you already know, “let your haters be your waiters!”
In 2019, it appears that he added the “when you sit at the table of success” bit when giving the commencement address at Medgar Evers College.
In 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James caught hater-waiter fever, and used the expression at an event empowering Black women in politics.
While on the campaign trail last year, Adams workshopped a different version. He’s quoted in the New York Times as saying, “Turn your haters into your waiters, and give them a 15 percent tip.” If it were me, I would want to flex on my haters with a 30 percent tip, but I get what he’s trying to say.
After taking office, Adams settled on the version we know and love: “Let your haters be your waiters when you sit down at the table of success.” In fact, the Queens College graduation was actually the second commencement speech in which he brought it out this year. In May, he told graduates of Pace College to have their haters be their waiters while they turned their backs on him in protest.
You think that after the kerfuffle around Mayor Adams’s comments about “low-skill workers” not being able to hold the mayor’s office, someone might have told him to stop saying this. But no, this man went to the Lady Gaga school of quotes: You find one you love, you stick to it, and eventually someone like me is like, “Huh, they sure are saying that a lot.” But hey, I’m a hater. You know what they say, there can be 100 haters in a room, but 99 won’t be your waiter at the table of success, but one will be.