The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch

Over a year ago I was at our local Costco and the book “The Last Lecture” caught my eye. This book was written by Randy Pausch from Carnegie Mellon University after giving his “Last Lecture”. The Last Lecture is a tradition at the University of giving a speech on the things that matter the most to you. Unfortunately, as he was developing this last lecture he was diagnosed and started his fight with pancreatic cancer and did not have long to live.

For anyone who has read it, this book was all about how to achieve your life’s dreams (and how to enable others to achieve theirs). It is an autobiography of Randy’s life including his childhood, adult professional life as a professor, his marriage and fatherhood. It is an amazing book, one that I’ve shared with many of my friends over the past year. I actually don’t have a copy of this book at the moment because I gave my last copy away.

One thing I never did was watch the video of that last lecture. Today I finally saw the video on TED Talks (my number one choice for web videos that matter). The video can be viewed from here. Watch at the end of this video (the video is an hour and eighteen minutes long) to see what it was really about (the head fakes).

The one thing that Randy will always be known for is Alice, a graphical system for learning object oriented programming. Randy was the founder of the Alice Project. I’ve written about Alice before, both on this blog and over on Virtued. Randy also started the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon. My youngest son was cracking up today while I was watching this video about half way through (at 37:32) when he shows a student video of a virtual reality project. You have to see it to appreciate it. It would have been a blast to be one of his students.

I like to have fun, it’s a prerequisite of anything that I do. I try to make everything that I do fun, and I find that attitude is very contagious when around other people (especially students). I think I would have definitely gotten along with Randy. He is the kind of person I would have gravitated towards and found a way to be involved in his projects.

With education being hit hard by the current downturn in the economy it’s sometimes hard to find the fun among all the bad news. But it’s out there, there are those who are not only finding it but promoting it in everything they do. If you are not one of these people you need to watch this video. This guy was having fun telling people that he was going to die, and how he spent his life achieving his dreams while having fun. Everyone can learn something from Randy Pausch’s last lecture. We can all learn how to help others to achieve their life dreams, and in the meantime achieve our own.

Take a look, spend an hour watching a reality show that’s actually worth your time. And then pick up a copy of his book, not for you, but to pass along to others who can learn from this professor’s amazing life and advice. Unfortunately Randy Pausch lost his battle with cancer in July of 2008. Good Morning America did a story on his life when he died. Here’s the page with this story. Watch this first and decide if you want to spend 90 minutes watching the full video of the Last Lecture.

And the brick walls that he references several times during his lecture are very real. We’ve all had to break through many of those brick walls with the PacRimX project (both here and in Japan), and we are already hitting some for next year’s (2011’s) exchange. We’ve got the sledge hammers out already and are chipping away at that wall early.


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