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SALT LAKE CITY — Most graduation ceremonies, though an exciting rite of passage, are mundane. The march of pomp and circumstance. The endless speeches from faculty members. But every once in a while someone will find a way to make the ceremony memorable, or impart words of wisdom that hit home with students heading off into the real world.
Here are five popular graduation clips from around the web.
"Be true to yourself"
In 2009, Tulane University's "Katrina Class" invited Ellen Degeneres to give the commencement speech. Without her usual dancing through the aisles, she gave life advice to graduates in true Ellen style, encouraging graduates to be true to themselves.
"You've survived a hurricane. What else can happen to you? Some of the most devastating things that happen to you will teach you the most. And now you know what questions to ask at your first job interview, like, 'Is it above sea level'?" said Degeneres.
The grad rap
Not every memorable graduation speech is given by a celebrity. Most are given by students in their teens, braving thousands of onlookers and trying desperately to plow through their message without stuttering too much. Some brave souls think out of the box, like Henry Tappen, who delivered this original rap to his high school class in 2004.
"Life isn't fair. Deal with it!"
The Dartmouth class of 2011 had a decorated war hero and former president, George W. Bush, on the stage during their graduation, but they received their commencement speech from a late-night talk show host instead. Conan O' Brien is as intelligent as he is hilarious, and has become one of the most sought after commencement speakers since this speech went viral on YouTube.
"Today you have achieved something special, something only 92 percent of Americans your age will ever know: a college diploma," opened O'Brien. "With your college diploma, you now have a crushing advantage over 8 percent of the population."
"Life is an improvisation"
Stephen Colbert is a former theater major at Northwestern and returned as an alumnus to deliver the commencement speech for the graduating class of 2011. Colbert won over the crowd, delivering his speech in his usual satirical style. But he took on a surprisingly sincere tone when advising that graduates serve what they love."You’ve been told to follow your dreams. But what if it’s a stupid dream?" Colbert said. "Thankfully, dreams can change. If we’d all stuck with our first dream, the world would be overrun with cowboys and princesses. Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what will happen next. And like improv, you can’t win life.
"In my experience, you will truly serve only what you love, because service is love made visible," he continued. "If you love friends, you will serve your friends. If you love community, you will serve community. If you love money, you will serve money. And if you love only yourself, you will serve only yourself and have only yourself. So no winning. Try to love and serve others, and hopefully find those who will love and serve you in return."
In 2011, Jessica Freedman crossed the stage at her Cal Poly San Luis Obispo graduation. Her family cheered her on with the exception of her brother, Eric Freedman, who was serving as a Marine over seas. And like most homecomings, this one is a tear jerker.
Nicole Pollard currently resides in Canyon Country, Calif.