Randy Pausch, My Hero

Former Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch has been one of my heroes since I first viewed his famous “Last Lecture” on the Internet last year, and I’m sure I’m not alone. That video, if you’ve been off-planet for the past 6 months, is available for viewing on YouTube or on a DVD you can order from CMU (which I have).

After finding out that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given 3 to 6 months of good health before the disease would begin its fatal finish to his life, Professor Pausch was given the chance to perform a CMU tradition, The Last Lecture, so named because it was typically the departing teacher’s opportunity to say whatever they wish as last words to the student body and faculty.

And boy, what powerful last words they were.

“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”
was a talk that Professor Pausch actually prepared as a way to leave his 3 young children, Chloe, Dylan, and Logan, his advice for life since he would not be here to give it to them as they grew older. It’s advice that is packed with common sense, philosophy and, what seems to be the foundation of his advice, a sense of humor (“I have had a deathbed conversion…I bought a Macintosh.”). Yet even though his target audience was his children, some 6 million people all over the world watched that original online video and many of them took his words to heart, attempting to put them into action within their own lives

I also watched him in his appearance on “Oprah” several months ago, will watch him on “Primetime” tonight and will buy his newly published (yesterday) book, “The Last Lecture”, which expands upon his original stage presentation and still is directed toward his children. Professor Pausch has been trying to spend as much time as possible with his children (who still do not know he is dying, only that he is sick) and so he collaborated with fellow CMU alum and Wall Street Journal columnist Jeffrey Zaslow by cellphone headset while he bicycled around his neighborhood for exercise.

It’s not often that I admire anyone that I do not personally know; Professor Pausch is one of those few. I hope, if I ever find myself in a similar situation, that I can emulate his poise, courage and humor.

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