A noble institution? A good show? A tedious quarter-hour of lame jokes told under the hot sun? The American commencement address can be all of these things.
We skipped and slogged through 50 of the most popular commencement speeches on YouTube - looking for inspiration, wisdom, amusement, corny jokes and clichés - to bring you this mashup of highlights and lowlights.
There are more than 7,000 colleges in the U.S., and 21.8 million students enrolled in them. That's potentially 21.8 million opinions about what makes a school "the best."
The penalty for a bad choice can be huge. The cost of a degree continues to soar, graduation rates vary widely from college to college, and a growing body of evidence suggests that picking a supposedly "top" school doesn't necessarily pay off later in life.
Something funny has happened to the familiar commencement address in the past 10 years. That something is YouTube. Steve Jobs' 2005 address at Stanford, to take just one example, has been viewed upwards of 20 million times.