Aretha Franklin receives an honorary degree at Harvard University

Aretha Franklin receives an honorary degree at Harvard University's 2014 Commencement held in Tercentenary Theatre on May 29, 2014.

Rose Lincoln/Harvard College

A former president and the Queen of Soul have received honorary degrees from Harvard University.

George H.W. Bush, Aretha Franklin, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and five others were honored at Thursday's commencement.

Harvard President Drew Faust poked fun at the 89-year-old Bush's Yale University credentials, saying his "cap was blue, his house was white and now his robe is crimson."

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Bush smiled and gestured to the crowd as he received the doctor of laws degree but didn't stand.

The 72-year-old Franklin accompanied herself on piano to perform the national anthem. She received an honorary doctor of arts.

Bloomberg criticized intolerance in his commencement speech. He urged graduates to stand up for free expression, saying "our nation will be stronger for it."