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Bush returns to Yale for commencement speech

President Bush
President Bush: 'To you 'C' students, you too can be president of the United States."  

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut (CNN) -- President Bush returned to his old college stomping grounds and the city of his birth Monday to receive an honorary degree and address graduates at Yale University's commencement.

He kept the mood light while honoring the school where he received his bachelor's degree.

Bush poked fun at his average college record while at the Ivy League school. "And to you 'C' students, you too can be president of the United States," he said to a crowd that rippled with laughter.

Watch Bush's commencement address (May 21)

Part 1 | Part 2
(QuickTime, Real or Windows Media)

The president also got in a good-natured jab at his vice president, who attended Yale for a time. "A Yale degree is worth a lot, as I often remind Dick Cheney, who studied here but left a little early," Bush said. "So now we know, if you graduate from Yale, you become president. If you drop out, you get to be vice president."

The president had one big punchline left for the crowd, tying it to the school's reputation as a bastion of liberal thought and its tradition of not having a commencement speaker unless it is the president of the United States.

"Most people think that to speak at Yale's commencement, you have to be president. But over the years, the specifications have become far more demanding," the self-described compassionate conservative noted. "Now, you have to be a Yale graduate, you have to be president, and you have had to have lost the Yale vote to Ralph Nader."

The consumer advocate and Green Party candidate was the favorite last November in the election precinct that included the Yale campus.

Turning serious, the president said he was grateful for his Yale experience, saying the university is a source of great pride for him.

"All universities, at their best, teach that degrees and honors are far from the full measure of life, nor is that measure taken in wealth or in titles," Bush said. "What matters most are the standards you live by, the consideration you show others, and the way you use the gifts you are given."

The Bush visit was not without some controversy. A petition was circulated on campus protesting his selection as commencement speaker. Signs held up by graduates included "Yale Women Against Bush" and death penalty protests.

The commencement speech was a homecoming for the president. Bush was born in New Haven July 6, 1946, after his father returned from World War II. His parents lived in an on-campus apartment as his father studied economics. The family moved to Texas in 1948.

He received a bachelor's degree in history from Yale in 1968 and a master of business administration from Harvard Business School in 1975.

Before giving the commencement address he was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from the school. Both his father and his grandfather received the same degree.

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