206 pages; published 2008
I wasn’t in a suit. I wore no tie. I wasn’t going to get up there in some professorial tweed jacket with leather elbow patches. Instead, I had chosen to give my lecture wearing the most appropriate childhood-dream garb I could find in my closet.
Granted, at first glanced I looked like the guy who’d take your order at a fast-food drive through. But actually, the logo on my short-sleeved polo shirt was an emblem of honor because it’s the one worn by Walt Disney Imagineers – the artists, writers and engineers who create theme-park fantasies. In 1995, I spent a six-month sabbatical as an Imagineer. It was a highlight of my life, the fulfilment of a childhood dream. That’s why I was also wearing the oval “Randy” name badge given to me when I worked at Disney. I was paying tribute to that life experience, and to Walt Disney himself, who famously had said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” (16)
Generally speaking, I’m not a big reader of non-fiction. In fact, with the exception of the occasional book of essays and a biography or two (usually only one or two a year), my reading is almost entirely fiction. Despite this, my cousin (who, admittedly, seems to read more non-fiction than I do) and I both suggested this book for our book club.
The books title, ‘The Last Lecture’ refers to a series of lectures given by respected professors in which they are asked to “consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them” (3). Randy Pausch was one such professor – a computer science professor a Carnegie Mellon University. What makes Randy’s lecture unique, however, is that it is truly to be his last lecture. Having been diagnosed with terminal cancer, Pausch’s took the opportunity presented through the tradition of the last lecture to impart some of his heart-felt wisdom and advice as well as, quite touchingly, preserve a part of himself for his wife and children.
Titling his lecture “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, Pausch presents his lecture in a manner that is both honest and moving. Part autobiographical, part humour-filled wisdom, he delivers a wealth of common sense knowledge and life-experiences to his audience – yet so comfortably, so familiarly, that one can’t help but imagine the day his children are old enough to listen to his lecture, to pick up this book and read their father’s words.
While reading this book I laughed, and I cried – both in equal measure. Read the book for yourself. It is guaranteed to make you reconsider you smile, to make you think, to make you reconsider the time you have left. Randy Pausch thought he had all the time in the world. He didn’t. This is the legacy he leaves, in lieu of that time. 5/5
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