Friday, August 1, 2008

Last Lecture

Many of you have probably heard of Randy Pausch, an American professor and father of three who had pancreatic cancer. He became famous via the Internet for his "Last Lecture" video. I posted a short version of his lecture from The Oprah Winfrey Show on my blog post, "Cancer as Opportunity" in February.

He died last week.

I wish I'd had a professor like him when I was in college. I might have skipped fewer classes and actually learned something.

As a fellow parent and cancer patient with a similar prognosis, I'm extremely impressed and sad. He seems like a funny, smart, caring guy who's human enough to make mistakes and humble enough to laugh about them.

I keep thinking about his three kids, ages 2, 4, and 6. This last lecture video and the best-selling book based on the lecture, are a great legacy that he's leaving behind for his kids. But I can't help thinking that if I were his daughter, I'd watch the video and read his book and the volumes of articles written about him with pride, and still wish that I could exchange my father's famous legacy for just one hour of being with him in person.

I found a video of his original lecture on You Tube, which you can see by clicking HERE. It's an hour and 16 minutes long and gets a bit too much into his academic work, but I think it's worth watching. He may not say anything new or earth-shattering, but I think he's a great speaker - articulate, engaging, and funny.

It's not what he says that impresses me so much, but who he is - a father of three young kids who wants to be there for them even after he's gone, a guy who gets an auditorium full of people to sing to his wife, a man with a highly respected position in academia who still goes around waving his arms in excitement and gets a twinkle in his eyes talking about what his students are learning, a professor who can't stop talking about his colleagues and bosses and how much he admires them, a dying man who can still enjoy his life and crack jokes about his deathbed conversion, a man facing death who can do it with dignity and humor and without God or religion. He's a hero I could sit and have a beer with.

Here are some things from his lecture that made an impression on me, that I'd like to pass on to my own kids:

1) Be good at something. It makes you valuable.
2) Don't let people think you're arrogant. It will limit what you can achieve.
3) See obstacles as a test to see just how badly you want something.
4) If you're a talented salesperson, sell something meaningful like education, diplomacy, justice.
5) Enabling the dreams of others is as good as making your own dreams come true.

Enjoy the video. You have all weekend to watch it and all the rest of your life to think about what this guy has left behind for the rest of us.

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