For the members of the class of 2007, there were words of wisdom for the taking, reports CBS News' Russ Mitchell.
Sometimes no words can capture the euphoria of students who've slogged through four years to get to graduation day. Musician Wynton Marsalis needed no words, playing a trumpet solo for graduates of New York University.
But elsewhere this year, words were not in short supply.
From all walks of life, speakers came to address graduates: Politicians, actors, journalists and talk show hosts all had something on their mind.
For politicians, it's a perfect platform. President George W. Bush used his speech at the Coast Guard Academy to urge support for the war in Iraq.
"The fight is essential to our security. Al Qaeda's leaders inside and outside of Iraq have not given up on their objective of attacking America again," he said.
For presidential candidates, it's a chance to recruit voters.
Senator Hillary Clinton spoke at three historically black colleges, courting a community whose support she needs.
"Don't buy into the myth that we cannot change the circumstances of our nation. That's what elections are for," she told graduates of Ohio's Wilberforce University. "That's what involvement is about."
Republican Mitt Romney, former governor of liberal Massachusetts, reached out to conservative Christians at Regent University in Virgina Beach, Va.
"This, too, is your heritage -- to reach beyond the shallows of selfishness and to shape the character of your nation. The deep water will be more rewarding and more exhilarating than you can possibly imagine," he said. "Come on in, the water's fine!"
Even on this joyous day, the real world intruded. Many universities held moments of silence to commemorate the tragedy at Virginia Tech, where posthumous degrees were awarded to parents of slain students.
But there were survivors in abundance, too.
White House spokesman Tony Snow addressed The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., after another round of cancer treatment.
"You're young and you're bulletproof and invincible," Snow said, "But never underestimate the power of other people's love and prayer."
Elizabeth Edwards, another speaker living with cancer, reminded graduates of Meredith College in Raleigh, N.C. how precious each day is.
"You're young. Maybe there will be a time for a do-over if you don't get it right the first time. But there are no guarantees. There will come a time -- as it might have come for me -- when there is no time left for do-overs," she said. "Every opportunity to reach out, to speak, to touch someone is precious to me, because I don't know how long I have to complete my story."
At Boston's Berklee College of Music, singer Gloria Estefan, who nearly died in a bus crash in 1990, delivered a message of hope.
"Music is a healing force and musicians have the privilege of sharing it. It's such an amazing way to live your life."
Perhaps the soundest advice came from the filmmaking brothers Peter and Bobby Farrelly in their speech at Rhode Island's Roger Williams University.
"Don't ever rob a bank," Peter Farrelly advised. "Enjoy life. Have fun. Choose to be happy now; don't wait until you're 'successful,' because honestly, I was as happy when we were unemployed and scrounging around for a buck."
Brother Bobby sees things a bit differently.
"Honestly, I'm happier now," he said.