Editor’s Note: Since the posting of this article, Randy Pausch has gone home. Randy Pausch, renowned computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, died July 25, 2008 of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 47. CMU has a wonderful biography on Pausch’s life.
The Last Lecture at Carnegie Mellon University
Hemingway called it ‘grace under pressure.’ The writer Anais Nin said that, “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Winston Churchill called it the greatest virtue “and the guarantor of all the others.”
There are different types of courage, of course. There is the heroic courage American soldiers demonstrated when they spilled onto the beach at Normandy in June, 1944. Or, when New York City firefighters rushed into the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Then, there is everyday courage. The kind it takes to experiment with your own life, whether falling love, changing careers, or bearing up under difficult circumstances.
Americans talk about courage a lot. We idolize it many ways, as all free people should. But we don’t always get to see it firsthand.
First Hand Courage
Today you will. Last week, a Spiritual Wealth reader wrote to tell me about Randy Pausch, a Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh.
Some of you may know his story already. In September 2006, he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. This diagnosis is essentially a death sentence.
Although Pausch pursued an aggressive treatment that included major surgery and experimental chemotherapy, by August 2007 the disease had metastasized to his liver and spleen. He was told he had three months to live.
On September 18, 2007, Dr. Pausch delivered his ‘Last Public Lecture’ at CMU, titled ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.’ I have watched the original 76-minute lecture online, and it is truly inspiring. It’s where Dr. Pausch summarizes the main points of his lecture. (Above)
There are plenty of people out there who want to tell us how to achieve our dreams. Randy Pausch does something different. He shows you how to make your dreams come to you.
The confederate colonel Robert G. Ingersoll once said, “The greatest test of courage on earth is to bear defeat without losing heart.” Randy Pausch is a living testimonial.
This is powerful, moving stuff. If you don’t have a lump in your throat by the end, please be sure to have someone check your pulse.