Comedian Stephen Colbert thanked the University of Virginia during his speech Saturday at its 2013 valedictory exercises for inviting him to be the keynote speaker, which he took to mean he had been awarded an additional honor.

"I believe that means I am this year's valedictorian, and I am as shocked as you are because I didn't make it to many classes this year," Colbert said. "You guys must've really tanked your finals, thank you for that."

Colbert addressed the graduating students and their parents at the event, which is meant to pay tribute to students' time at the university. Graduates will walk across the stage and receive diplomas Sunday at a separate commencement.

Colbert noted U.Va.'s top rankings in U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review, as well as Playboy's ranking of top party schools, which placed the Wahoos first.

Colbert clarified, "I only read Playboy for the rankings."

He made light of the controversy in June 2012 when the U.Va. board of visitors ousted Teresa Sullivan as president. The board later reinstated Sullivan after an intense backlash from students, faculty and alumni.

"I want to thank president Teresa Sullivan. You are way better than that last president, Teresa Sullivan, she was terrible," Colbert said to plenty of laughter and applause. "I am so glad they cut her loose. Good riddance, I say! No, you are clearly the woman for this job."

The famed satirist and host of television show "The Colbert Report" then turned his attention to the university's governing board. Colbert suggested it was named the board of visitors because Thomas Jefferson, the school's founder, was trying to put the local Native Americans at ease. "Just visiting, should be going home any century now," he joked.

Colbert acknowledged that the founding father was known for "embracing diversity," a reference to the United States president's personal life. But instead of going on, Colbert said he would just send a tweet:


Stephen Colbert
Tommy loved the brown sugar!

Later in the speech, Colbert brought up Time magazine's recent cover story declaring millennials the "Me Me Me Generation."

"So self obsessed -- tweeting your Vines, hashtagging your Spotifys and Snapchatting your YOLOs -- your generation needs everything to be about you," Colbert said. "And that's very upsetting to us baby boomers because self-absorption is kind of our thing."

But Colbert told the grads that their generation would be better off in the long run, partly because they're inheriting a world with so many challenges.

"You may learn sooner than most generations the hard lesson that you must always make the path for yourself," Colbert said. "There is no secret society out there that will tap you on your shoulder one night and show you the way. Because the true secret is your life will not be defined by the society that we have left you."

"I believe we have given you a gift, a particular form of independence," Colbert added a moment later, "because you do not owe the previous generation anything. Thanks to us, you owe it to the Chinese."

Watch a clip of Stephen Colbert's speech at the University of Virginia in the video above.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • Ed Helms at Knox College

    Actor Ed Helms will speak at Knox College <a href="http://www.theknoxstudent.com/news/2013/02/13/actor-comedian-ed-helms-chosen-as-2013-commencement-speaker/" target="_blank">on June 8</a>.

  • Anders Holm at University of Wisconsin

    Actor, writer and producer Anders Holm (left) will speak at the University of Wisconsin <a href="http://www.news.wisc.edu/21677" target="_blank">on May 18 and 19</a>.

  • Julie Andrews at University of Colorado

    Julie Andrews will speak at the University of Colorado <a href="http://www.dailycamera.com/news/ci_22522997/renowned-actress-julie-andrews-picked-be-cu-boulders" target="_blank">on May 10</a>.

  • Carson Kressley at Philadelphia University

    Carson Kressley, perhaps most known for his role in "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," is speaking at Philadelphia University <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/fashion-celebrity-carson-kressley-philadelphia-university-commencement-address-205600230.html" target="_blank">on May 11</a>.

  • Annie Lennox at Berklee College of Music

    Singer Annie Lennox will speak at the Berklee College of Music <a href="http://www.boston.com/names/2013/03/19/annie-lennox-deliver-berklee-commencement-address/N2qZesKiJCqtvZjYTkbxvK/story.html" target="_blank">on May 11</a>.

  • Robert Redford at Westminster College

    Director and actor Robert Redford will speak at Westminster College <a href="http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865576685/Robert-Redford-named-as-Westminster-commencement-speaker.html" target="_blank">on June 1</a>.

  • Darius Rucker at University of South Carolina

    Singer Darius Rucker from Hootie & The Blowfish will speak at the University of South Carolina <a href="http://www.theboot.com/2013/04/18/darius-rucker-usc-graduation-speech/" target="_blank">on May 11</a>.

  • Stephen Colbert at University Of Virginia

    Stephen Colbert will be the keynote speaker at the University of Virginia's 2013 Valedictory Exercises <a href="http://news.virginia.edu/content/stephen-colbert-will-be-2013-valediction-speaker" target="_blank">on May 18</a>.

  • Cal Ripken Jr. at University of Maryland

    Cal Ripken Jr., of major league baseball fame, will speak at the University of Maryland <a href="http://collegepark.patch.com/articles/cal-ripken-to-deliver-2013-umd-commencement-address" target="_blank">on May 19</a>.

  • Bill Cosby at University of Baltimore

    Bill Cosby will speak at the University of Baltimore <a href="http://www.baltimoresun.com/features/baltimore-insider-blog/bal-bill-cosby-to-deliver-university-of-baltimore-commencement-address-20130314,0,7382820.story" target="_blank">on May 21</a>.

  • Deepak Chopra at Hartwick College

    Deepak Chopra will speak at Hartwick College <a href="http://www.hartwick.edu/current-students/commencement-2013/commencement-speaker" target="_blank">on May 25</a>.

  • Oprah Winfrey at Harvard University

    Oprah is speaking at Harvard University <a href="http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2013/03/commencement_2013/" target="_blank">on May 30</a>.