Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday with Randy

On Fridays we post live performances here. Usually it's music, but it doesn't have to be, and today it isn't.

As many of you know, Randy Pausch died last weekend. He was the Carnegie-Mellon professor of computer science who in spring 2007 delivered the school's Last Lecture, an annual tradition in which a faculty member delivers a valedictory oration of life lessons and sage advice for graduating students.

In Pausch's case, the "last lecture" thing wasn't just an idle conceit: he was at the time diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a particularly virulent organ cancer that proves fatal to over 90% of its victims. Professor Pausch knew he was dying and delivered his goodbye lecture in the truest and saddest sense.

And what a lecture he gave. He chose to spend his final months not dying but living, embracing life, enjoying every day, and preparing his family for the inevitable. His speech reflects his singularly undaunted personality.

Prof. Pausch's Last Lecture was recorded for posterity, but after it was posted on YouTube, it became an overnight sensation. Millions have watched it and drawn inspiration from his wise words, upbeat sense of humor, lack of interest in anyone's pity, and incredible human spirit. It also led to the bestselling book The Last Lecture, cowritten by Pausch and Carnegie-Mellon alumnus Jeff Zaslow.

It's all a lot like Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom's graceful paean to a dying professor, but in Pausch's case there is also the urgency and poignancy of a vibrant young man cut down in the prime of his career, contending with a fatal disease while raising three small children with his beloved wife.

Unless you're off for the summer, self-employed or exceptionally unsupervised at work, this hour-plus clip might be a little long to take in today. But you can watch it a bit at a time, or over the weekend.

Once you start watching, it will be hard to stop. I found it engrossing and moving as so many others have, and I know you will too.

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