The Last Lecture

Randy Pausch, Carnegie-Mellon, Sept. 18, 2007

It's your last lecture— what will you say
to your students— life lessons learned
and wisdom nuggets to guide their lives,
summing up of your dreams and passions?

When Lao Tzu left for the hills, a gatekeeper
asked advice for his son, and we have
the Tao Te Ching. Buddha's last words
were simple: "Be the lamp unto yourself."

Before dying, the Sixth Zen Patriarch
said "There is no need to seek outside
for the truth is already within you...
To help others, first practice on yourself."

Daudet's La Derniere Class brought me to tears
in high school when Monsieur Hamel gave his
last French lesson, telling them to never forget
"the most beautiful language in the world."

Now Randy Pausch gives his Last Lecture
"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"
to a packed house at Carnegie-Mellon.
Here's someone at the top of his field—

designer of 3D-animation Alice
software downloaded a million times,
creator of a media lab enabling students
in science and art to work together.

Randy's a loving husband and father
to three children, ages 5, 2, and 1.
He's leading an extremely happy life
when pancreatic cancer struck him.

He shows CAT scans of ten liver tumors,
doctors giving him a few months to live.
Unlike Job asking why is this happening
to him, he talks not of despair or denial.

Instead, he does one-hand push-ups to show
that he's in excellent health right now.
He tells them about his childhood dreams—
winning stuffed animals at carnivals,

being in zero-gravity, writing
an article for the World Book Encyclopedia,
working as Disney Imagineer. With hard work
and persistence, he has achieved them all.

"Brick walls are there for a reason," he said.
"They let us know how badly we want something."
He climbs over the walls, not with talent alone,
but with the help of mentors and friends.

He keeps his childlike wonder, shows gratitude,
and being earnest. He tells them "I'll take
an earnest person over a hip person every day,
because hip is short term. Earnest is long term."

In high school, he paints his bedroom, drawing
a submarine, an elevator, and the quadratic
equation. And his parents let him do it,
not worrying about resale value of the house.

His Dad fought at the Battle of the Bulge
in World War II. When he died last year,
his Mom found Dad's Bronze Star for Valor—
not knowing this in their 50 years of marriage.

Randy finds the best in everyone and is happy
when he helps others achieve their dreams.
At the end, he tells them that his talk is
"not about how to achieve your dreams.

It's about how to lead your life.
If you lead your life the right way,
karma will take care of itself.
The dreams will come to you."

And the talk is not for the students,
but for his kids. Someday when they are older,
they'll appreciate what kind of Dad they had.
Randy does not dwell on his cancer.

He is stoic— looking at death in the face
by celebrating life and the joy of living.
At the end of his talk, he tells everyone
that yesterday was his wife's birthday.

So a giant birthday cake is wheeled out to be
shared with all as they sing "Happy Birthday to Jai".
Birth and mirth sum up Randy's Last Lecture—
no wonder it was downloaded over a million times.

Randy's Mom said "this is my son, he's a
doctor but not the kind that helps people."

I say Randy is a doctor of science and soul
helping millions of people to live the good life.

          — Peter Y. Chou
               Mountain View, 12-6-2007

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© Peter Y. Chou,
P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email: (12-7-2007)