In a commencement address at Atlanta's historically black Morehouse College, President Obama said graduates should "find time to defend the powerless."
The president said his own success was due to "the special obligation I felt, as a black man like you, to help those who need it most, people who didn't have the opportunities that I had – because there but for the grace of God, go I. I might have been in their shoes. I might have been in prison. I might have been unemployed."
In New Jersey, Rutgers University graduated the largest class in school history – an estimated 14,302 students.
At New York's Hofstra University, students wore white ribbons at their graduation ceremony in honor of Andrea Rebello, one of their colleagues killed by a gunshot early Friday morning. A police officer accidentally killed 21-year-old Rebello as an armed intruder held her in a headlock.
Here are some images from college commencements across the nation: