Response Paper to “The Last Lecture”
I don’t know where to begin or how to respond. I am so saddened by his story and so impressed by both Randy Pausch’s resume and his attitude. I think he is incredibly… cocky, but I give him leave to be so and respect him for all he’s done, his obvious quirky uniqueness, and the legacy he left behind. But that is not why I cried through ? of the book and his lecture. I cried because it is his story, in all it’s truth, and it was ended too soon.
But he played his hand well, and he truly mastered the time he was given. His lessons resonate from their do-as-you-will faith in humanity to the intense competency he required of himself and those around him. He is inspiring for being who he was, through and through. The lessons he teaches are not directed at women: they are not to, by or for women, specifically, but they are applicable to us all.
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He does not appear to be someone who is gender-biased and though I imagine him to understand some of the disparities that exist, we are all capable of great things when we put our mind to them, I believe some of the words he used were: “whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right” and “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”. In fact, I believe his lessons, his story, and his lecture are bigger than “us” as a gender or race or ethnicity. They are his transcendence of these things.
His lessons caught my attention in several ways – I particularly enjoyed his advice to his daughter about her future romances and his comments regarding his experience with medical staff, as these pertain more to me and my life than the computer-science & statistical information, which may as well be in another language. His cliches are tried and true and he spins them wonderfully well in the context of his own life so that they are universally applicable. Moreover, he instills a sense of purpose within his readers to think bigger, dream bigger, and do bigger.
He references his doctors and nurses ability to speak both candidly and within a certain script. He reminds us the importance of the little things in life that mean more than we give them credit for: like hand written notes and childhood adventures. He is insistent that “growing up” and “growing old” are not synonymous and his life is an example of it. While he clearly admired expertise, he never lost his sense of wonder or creativity or energy. He spilled soda on the floor of his new car for Pete’s sake!
He reminds us that “paying it forward” is sometimes the best way to give back – and that other times, literally giving back is the best way to help someone less fortunate than ourselves. Moved, I began to think more about my own outlook on life and what I bring to the table. I, too, come from a wonderful background with two amazing parents who gave us the tools we needed to succeed – not by spoiling us, but by teaching us and guiding us as we developed our own character and moral compass. I do not think I am AS optimistic as him.
Though we are similarly drawn to reality and tangible facts, so to speak, his positive outlook in the face of an overwhelmingly negative situation is… amazing. I would aspire to respond similarly, should I ever be face with such a diagnosis or similar circumstance. The other thing Pausch’s lecture and book made me reflect on is what I, personally, bring to the table. I had dreams as a child, of course, but mine are more vague: I want to inspire, I want to do the “scary” adrenaline-junkie things, and I want, more than anything, to help children. In particular, I want to help children no one else is helping.
But my dreams and my goals overlap, as his did… his career ran parallel in accomplishing his dreams, as I intend for mine to do and I was somewhat relieved by that. I am not giving up or conceding what I hope to contribute by “growing up,” I am simply at a stage where I am able to contribute in a new and hopefully more profound way. As cited earlier, I was touched the scenes where Pausch describes his interactions with his doctors and nurses. I was reminded that my love for words and my connection with people may have a place in the crazy world of medicine, as he relayed the importance of semantics in, what we call, end-of-life care.
How the doctors ability to be both appropriately comforting and honest was integral for their respect for him. Similarly, the admiration Pausch demonstrates for his wife’s medical care team during their first son’s delivery is similarly touching. We each have our specialty, I suppose. Mine will be in nursing, his was in (…well in my opinion) virtual reality and electronic software, but we both feel a second calling to teach – to share what we know it the sincere hope of helping others. This is something I haven’t figured out how to weave into my future plans, but it is something I am sure will come up again, at some point, in my future.
I admire Pausch’s love. He talks about redeeming qualities, and Jon Snooty’s lesson that if you give everyone a chance, they will surprise you – I think most people’s redeeming qualities is their ability to love. He was not superfluous with his emotions and his affections were surprisingly in check for a “last lecture”, but it was palpable – the heartbreak of not seeing his children grow up, the affection for his wife, his work and interpersonal connections – his love for the world and the people around him make him real, they make him anyone’s professor, uncle, husband, son, father, friend.
Pausch, R., & Zaslow, J. (2008). The last lecture. New York City: Hyperion Books.