The Importance of The Last Lecture

This poster advertised Pausch's Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon in 2007.
This poster advertised Pausch’s Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon in 2007.

I’ve heard of The Last Lecture before, but until today, I had never watched it. The opportunity came up in my Verbal Communications Skills class because we have to give four different types of speeches this semester: demonstrative, informative, persuasive, and inspirational. I’m glad I got to see it, and I highly recommend it because it’ll really put things in perspective.

If you don’t know about The Last Lecture, the backstory is pretty incredible. Carnegie Mellon professor Randy Pausch delivered the lecture titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” at CMU on September 18, 2007. The Last Lecture series was modeled after an ongoing series in which top academics were asked to give a hypothetical “final talk” about a topic of their choice.

For Pausch, there was nothing hypothetical about it. It was closer to the end than to the beginning. A month before the lecture, at age 47, he was told that the pancreatic cancer he had been diagnosed with the previous year was terminal. Pausch was given just six months to live. Over 400 colleagues and students attended the now-famous lecture, which spawned several media appearances and later became a New York Times bestseller.

Pausch is what I imagine you would get if you crossed Jim Carey with the smartest man alive – funny, self-effacing, and informative. That’s one of the reasons we watched it in Verbal Comm. He uses his podium notes, PowerPoint slides, and gestures both seamlessly and effectively. Pausch may have had his battle with cancer in July of 2008, but in the 47 years he lived, he achieved each and every one of his childhood dreams. I think you’ll agree.

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