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From Maya Rudolph to George W. Bush, see 2015's amazing commencement speakers

by Ree Hines /  / Updated  / Source: TODAY

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College graduation is equal parts thrilling and scary. After all, as that one chapter comes to a close, a new chapter filled with opportunities, struggles and maybe even more education begins.

Commencement speeches by Meredith Viera at Boston University, George W. Bush at SMU and Maya Rudolph at Tulane
Commencement speeches by Meredith Viera at Boston University, George W. Bush at SMU and Maya Rudolph at Tulane.YouTube

Good thing commencement speakers are there to give grads some much-needed advice — or at least some comic relief — as they get ready for what's to come.

Here's a roundup of our favorite speeches of 2015 so far:

Meredith Vieira gives grads direction

When Boston University's Class of 2015 gathered to hear words of wisdom from former TODAY anchor Meredith Vieira, it's likely they didn't expect the pop-culture pointer she gave them.

"Don’t ever be a conformist for convenience sake," she told the crowd. "Or as Mark Twain put it, 'Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.' ... Be the left shark."

Stephen Colbert meets them with a meme

And while Vieira namechecked the sluggish shark from Katy Perry's Super Bowl performance, another meme served to illustrate Stephen Colbert's point when he spoke to the graduating folks at Wake Forest University.

"You did it and you look amazing," he said to the cap-and-gown decked masses. "Although it’s a little embarrassing you all showed up in the same outfit. Really, even all of the accessories are the same. Everyone has a black and gold tassel — or is it blue and white? Grandparents, just know this was the issue that divided a generation. You had the Vietnam War; your grandchildren had an ambiguously colored Tumblr post."

George Bush points out the potential in a C-average

As for former President George W. Bush, his message at Southern Methodist University was one he really related to.

"To those of you who are graduating this afternoon with high honors, awards and distinctions, I say, 'well done.'" He then quipped, "And as I like to tell the 'C' students: You, too, can be president."

Mark Ruffalo encourages misbehavior

"Avengers" star Mark Ruffalo never graduated from college himself. But when he accepted an award during Dickinson College's commencement, he was sure to pass on some advice that didn't require a degree.

"I’m asking each of you, at some point, to act up — be misbehaved," he said. "Buck the system. Fight for what you believe in. This is the time to do it. You’re the ones to do it. Your world, like no other generation, you actually get to create the world that you can imagine."

Maya Rudolph gets patriotic — and Bootylicious

Maya Rudolph saved the best for last for Tulane University students. After delivering her speech, she asked them to rise for her rendition of the national anthem.

But from "Single Ladies" to "Drunk in Love," Rudolph's rendition included 100 percent more Beyonce than the crowd expected.

Ian McEwan sets them free

While many played it for laughs, novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan got serious when he addressed the grads at Dickinson College.

"Free speech was, it is and always will be under attack — from the political right, the left, the center," he stressed. "It will come from under your feet, from the extremes of religion as well as from unreligious ideologies. It’s never convenient, especially for entrenched power, to have a lot of free speech flying around."

So he urged the graduating class to protect that freedom.

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