The Last Lecture: Dr Randy Pausch

2218 words (9 pages) Essay in English Literature

17/05/17 English Literature Reference this

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Carnegie Mellon University asked a set of Professors to give a message of a lifetime as if it was their last lecture before their death. Ironically for Dr. Randy Pausch, it was his last lecture because he had learned that he is going to die soon due to Pancreatic Cancer that has spread to his liver. “That is what it is we cannot change that, we just have to deal with it.” Dr. Pausch’s inspirational speech was not about death; it was about life and how to achieve your childhood dreams. His sense of humor and enthusiasm is what triggered the audience to become inspired with his life lessons.

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Randy Pausch started off his speech by introducing “the elephant in the room” which he told the audience that he has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and will die soon because of it. He chose to tell them about the cancer at the beginning because he believes that if there are issues distracting your audience, address them sooner rather than later. He says that we have to deal with what we are facing because it is not in our hands to change the future. Therefore, instead of feeling depressed, we should try to enjoy the time that we have left. “If I do not seem depressed as I should be, sorry to disappoint you.” He makes it clear that he is not in denial of what’s going on, he is just dealing with the situation in a positive way. Randy knows that he has ten tumors in his stomach and that he only has six months to live; he chooses to spend them with his family rather than worrying about the future. Pausch uses a couple of techniques in his lecture to inspire the audience with his talk. He knows that the audience might get emotional when they learn that he is doing to die soon due to sickness so he creates a sense of humor throughout his lecture as much as possible. For example, he told the audience that even though he is dying soon, “I am in much better shape than most of you,” and he starts to make push ups to show that them that he is physically strong; the audience respond with laughter and applause. Pausch laughs, smiles and tells a lot of jokes throughout the lecture instead of feeling depressed and sad. Throughout his speech he gives away his stuffed animals, wears an Alice in Wonderland hat, and wears a football jacket because he believes that audience is more likely to have fun and cherish life if they see you doing so in your speeches. Moreover, he could have used a serious tone for this speech. He could have stressed every word as if it were a matter of life or death; however, that would have drawn more attention to his condition instead of his main message and the point of the talk was to learn something out of it instead of feeling sorry for him. Due to these reasons, Pausch told the audience at the beginning of the speech that he will not talk about the cancer, wife, or children because the audience is going to get emotional including himself as they are very sensitive topics to discuss.

Randy Pausch introduces the main points of the lecture and what he will exactly talk about. Even though Pausch tries to give the impression that the speech is not personal, to some extent it is as the content of the speech are on the personal lessons Randy Pausch has learned through life, and he illuminates these through personal stories. The first topic he addressed is his own childhood dreams and shows the audience pictures of him as a child smiling and looking happy all the time to reveal that he had a great childhood. He also stated that one of the many great things that his parents allowed him to do is paint his own room as he had the chance to express his creativity. As a child he believed that “if a man can land on the moon, anything is possible.” As a child he always wanted to become an astronaut but he never did; however, NASA created a competition for college students to design a certain project and the winners would go up in to the air in “Vomit Comet”, (a plane used by astronauts to practice before traveling to the moon) and experience weightlessness as if they are on the moon. Pausch was so excited that his students won until he learns that faculty members are not allowed to join. He makes this point by explaining that this was like a brick wall in his life and “Brick walls are there for a reason, they let us prove how badly we want things.” Moreover, he didn’t give up and he had to fake as a journalist as they were allowed on the plane.

Another dream that Pausch shared is the dream of becoming a professional football player and play for the national team which he never did. “I got more out of that dream that I didn’t accomplish, more than any other dream that I did accomplish.” Also, his coach in school would make him do extra push ups, laps, and practice so Randy thought he was making him practice extra just because he didn’t think he was good enough until someone told him ” when you are screwing up and no one is bothering to tell you anything , that’s when they give up on you.” Moreover, the critiques in our lives are the ones who basically love you and care about you. Also, Randy tells the audience that even though he never got to play as a professional football player, football is still a part of him and while talking, he wears his football jacket and ball and starts playing with it. Another point that Pausch makes that I personally thought it was important is that “almost every thing we learn, we learn indirectly.” He explains that by saying that when we send our children to play football, we don’t actually send them to play football but we actually send them to learn skills like teamwork and sportsmanship. Another dream that Pausch shared is the dream of sharing knowledge with other and he did when he was selected to write an article in Wikipedia. Pausch believes that one of the most significant things in life is to share knowledge and pass it on to others. He expresses his humor by saying “that being selected to be an author of Wikipedia, now I know that it is a reliable source that you can use.” The next dream he introduced is “Being like/ meeting captain Kirk” which he intended to write it that way to amuse the audience and make them laugh. It was his childhood dream to be like Captain Kirk because it was a show that taught leadership skills. Even though he wanted to be like Captain Kirk he got to meet the actor.

Another dream that Randy talked about is being an “imagineer” at Disney Land. The first time he went to Disney Land as a kid, instead of saying “I want to experience this” he said, “I want to make stuff like that.” One thing Randy learned during his experience that I thought was important is “When you are pissed off at somebody, you just have to give them time and they will impress you.” I believe that he is right because there is no real reason to be upset at anyone as we are all human beings who make mistakes. Also, life is too short to be upset with loved ones and you never know when your life will end. Moreover, Pausch became one of the “imagineers” who designed the game of Aladdin and Alice in Wonderland. This experience forever changed him as he learned that artists and engineers can invent great things together. Another important thing that he learned which I also thought was important was that “all good things come to an end and you should try to enjoy it as much as you can.”

Later on, Dr. Pausch taught a course at Carnie Mellon University for ten years about building virtual worlds. When Pausch stopped teaching the course he gave handed it someone better to run this course. “When you have something so precious, you should hand it to someone better than you.”

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There are many lessons with certain techniques that he used to persuade the audiences with, which were about life that I thought, are important to mention. It’s important to have parents and mentors in your life. In this part of the speech, Pausch showed pictures of his parents on rollercoaster to once more create a sense of humor. Also, he said that it is very important to give up the time to help others as we are blessed to have what we’ve got and others need our help. Moreover, “don’t complain, just work harder.” He gave an example of a baseball player Jackie Robinson who swore he would not complain if people spat on him. I think he gave this example to imply that people complain too much; he is dying and he chooses not to complain. Also, when he was in school and complaining to his mother, she said “I know how you feel, remember when your father was your age he was fighting the Germans.” Once again she uses this example to create a sense of positive energy in the atmosphere. Another important message is “Have fun I am dying and I choose to have fun.” He believes that he cannot tell other how to have fun; it is like telling a fish how to swim in the sea. Finally, “apologize when you screw up. I am sorry, I am wrong, and what can I do to make things better.” Pausch believes that many people apologize but they are too egocentric to ask “What can I do to make things better?”

In my opinion one of the most memorable moments in the lecture is when Pausch said “focus on others, not you” and as an example, he got out a huge birthday cake as it’s his wife’s birthday and the audience started to sing “Happy Birthday” to his wife. In this moment, Randy reveals his emotional side when he hugged his wife. It is very emotional because although throughout the talk he tried to be as enthusiastic and energetic as possible, when it came to his wife he couldn’t resist but give a sad face. Also, showing emotions is one of the best ways for a speaker to connect with an audience. Moreover, throughout the lecture he reveals the dreams that he had as a child and how he fulfilled each dream; but in my opinion, I think he the most important dream of all that he wants to fulfill but cannot is the dream of: to live longer and see his children grow up; unfortunately, he cannot fulfill that dream.

Dr. Randy Pausch concluded his lecture in a very strong way by summarizing his key points to get his audience to think about what he said. In addition, he reaches back to one of the concepts introduced earlier which was “the head fake” and reveals that his entire speech has been a pair of head fakes; which makes the audience rethink the whole speech in their heads. Finally, at the very end he reveals that the whole speech was not for the audience but for his wife and children. As a viewer, I realized that at the end of the lecture that Pausch was seizing every opportunity to make speeches and write a book for his children as they are too young to have memories of their father. Moreover, all the childhood dreams and life lessons he has taught throughout the lecture were talks that he wants his children to one day know about them and follow those life lessons he has talked about.

In my opinion, even though Dr. Randy Pausch tried to hide his emotional side throughout the lecture, the lecture was to some extent touching to the audience. The fact that he’s dying in a couple of months ,yet giving a lecture on how to achieve your dreams and live your life is somewhat emotional to the audience. In addition, his situation makes the audience feel sorry for him even though if it’s not his intention to this speech. I believe that the speech wouldn’t have been that successful if another person who was not ill would have given the same speech. Besides the skillful techniques Pausch used, the audience wouldn’t have been as persuaded as they were by a different person preaching the exact same words because they psychologically feel like the need to listen to him because he is dying and in a way they feel sorry for him. Moreover, I believe this reason is one of the several motives to why Dr. Randy Pausch was listed as one of the hundred most influential people in the world.

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