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Pomped Up!

Capping off four (or more) years of lectures, all-nighters and accumulating debt, graduating college students got the last laugh—not to mention a diploma and a handshake—at commencement ceremonies across the country. And to confirm that, yes, they are worthy, some stellar guest speakers turned out for one final class act.

“Congratulations to those of you who graduated magna cum laude, summa cum laude, cum laude…. And then the [other] 75 percent: Thank you, Lawdy!”

BILL COSBY, at the University of Southern California

“What bothers me about being here today is that most of you were 1 year old when Superman 1 came out.”

CHRISTOPHER REEVE, at the University of Virginia

“You are at last officially full-grown men and women—what you were biologically by age 15 or so. I am sorry as I can be that it took so long and cost so much for you to at last receive licenses as grown-ups.”

KURT VONNEGUT, at Rice University

“Not only is a college diploma the key to unlocking the sweetest fruits of a free society, it also confers on you the universal distinction of adulthood: debt.”

AL GORE, the Vice President, at South Carolina State University

“I think this is the first time in the States I am receiving an honorary degree in an actual ceremony of convocation when the students are also receiving their degrees. So I am particularly happy today. Of course, another factor in my particular joy is that you had to work hard to get it for many years, whereas I didn’t have to study at all!”

THE DALAI LAMA, who received an honorary doctorate at Emory University

“I’m pleased I’ve been asked to address a graduating class before my wide-eyed fascination and wonder for the world turns into bitter cynicism. You see, if I lose another Oscar, it will be too late.”

GREG KINNEAR, who lost this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Robin Williams, at his alma mater, the University of Arizona

“This is my first, my one and only. It’s an. incredible experience. Now everybody has to call me doctor.”

LAUREN BACALL, who never attended college, on receiving an honorary doctorate from Columbia University

“There is no such thing as failure. Mistakes happen in your life to bring into focus more clearly who you really are. Trials happen in your life: I just went through one myself sitting in Texas, over some cows.”

OPRAH WINFREY, at Wesleyan University

“From 1972 to 1974, my first two years, one of my fellow Oswego classmates was one Jerry Seinfeld. Jerry couldn’t make it here. Jerry wussed out. He couldn’t stand it, so he went down to Queens College…. What could he have done if he had made it four years here? He might have actually amounted to something.”

AL ROKER, at his alma mater, State University of New York College at Oswego

“Well, they told me I couldn’t say [it], but I am Jeb’s mother. You knew I was going to work that in.”

BARBARA BUSH, whose son Jeb, 45, is running for governor of Florida, at the University of Miami

“The role of a commencement speaker is similar to the role played by a body at a funeral: They cannot hold the event without one, but nobody expects you to say very much.”

BOB DOLE, at George Washington University