This is the VOA Special English EDUCATION REPORT.
May and June are the months when most graduation ceremonies take place in the United States. Young people traditionally take part in ceremonies as they finish high school or college. But some are as young as four or five years old. These children are honored for finishing pre-school or kindergarten programs.
Still others may be students completing their education in their old age. Every year, men and women older than age seventy or eighty receive diplomas or degrees. These documents are evidence that they have graduated.
Traditionally, the school's directors present the diplomas or degrees. Also, the graduates often wear traditional caps and gowns over their clothing. Most graduation ceremonies in the United States have a speaker who presents the commencement address.
For example, President Bush recently spoke at the University of South Carolina. Mr. Bush used the speech as a chance to propose a free trade area in the Middle East.
Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to graduates of the Agricultural School at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He told students that he had not studied enough when he was first in college. But he said that he received a second chance to finish his studies and graduate. He called America "the country of second chances."
Former President Bill Clinton spoke to students at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. Mr. Clinton told them he wanted them to do well in life. But he said he also wanted them to do good.
Actors and other entertainers also are popular graduation speakers. For example, comic actor Bill Cosby spoke to students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Actor Michael J. Fox spoke to medical school graduates of the University of Miami in Florida. He urged them to care deeply about research. Mr. Fox has Parkinson's disease.
Many colleges and universities have their own graduation traditions. For example, graduates of the United States Naval Academy throw their military hats in the air. This custom celebrates their becoming Navy or Marine Corps officers. Guests at the ceremonies at the school in Annapolis, Maryland, then are welcome to take the hats home.
This Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.