Pros: enjoyable read with great insight given; pictures throughout
Cons: ending was particularly sad
Wearing a Disney logo and name badge from his work as a Disney Imagineer, Randy Pausch gives, literally, his last lecture to his Carnegie Mellon University colleagues, students and friends just a month after receiving the news that he had but six months at the most of good health left. It was September 2006 when forty-five year old Pausch stepped on stage and showed his audience the CT scans revealing ten tumors in his liver, helpfully pointed out with red arrows if you managed to miss them. With the significant help of writer Jeffrey Zaslow, he put together the 206-page book, The Last Lecture, based on his lecture, but not only for the benefit of colleagues, students and friends. Though Pausch, a professor there of Computer Science and Human Computer Interaction and Design, had been scheduled before the diagnosis to contribute to the university's traditional ‘last lectures' by professors, he gave it for his young children as well.
I visited the book's website at thelastlecture.com where I read his health blog during the almost two years he fought the terminal pancreatic cancer diagnosis (he died July 2008). I also found a letter he received from President Bush who commended him for, basically, being such a strong, admirable American that we can be inspired by. It's true that Pausch had many admirable qualities that the inspirational book shows without becoming maudlin or biblical, notably his love of life in spite of knowing his chances of beating the cancer were extremely small. He's also a very wise and capable educator with some maverick ways that made him so effective and loved.
Pausch titled his lecture "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," believing that what was unique about him was that he achieved most of his dreams and that was what he most wished for his three children who would grow up without remembering him very well or at all. It's not that he had specific dreams for them or that he thought they should inherit his dreams of being in no gravity, winning stuffed animals or becoming a Disney Imagineer. He simply wanted them--and us--to know that we can make some of our dreams come true if we want them badly enough to not let the proverbial brick walls stop us. We can also enable the dreams of others and he explains how. What The Last Lecture really is an engaging profile of a man reflecting on what he has learned in life, a summation in other words of his lifelong belief in a positive attitude, honesty, character, dreams, time management skills, patience, and showing gratitude.
There are sixty-one brief, titled chapters in six sections:
1) The Last Lecture
2) Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams
3) Adventures...And Lessons Learned
4) Enabling The Dreams Of Others
5) It's About How You Live Your Life
6) Final Remarks
Pausch unsurprisingly didn't want to take time away from his family to write the book (he says he stinks at writing on his health blog) and agreed to let Zaslow interview him by phone while Pausch rode his exerciser bike in the winter before his death. The book was released by Disney's Hyperion in April to great public acclaim and the dying man's delight. He'd been getting various kinds of chemotherapy and radiation for the metastasizing cancer, along with radical surgery, and it's really heartbreaking to know this and that it only prolonged the inevitable, but Zaslow did a wonderful job of showing that Pausch focused on his legacy without being negative and complaining. I teared up some towards the end, as much for the beauty of Pausch's life as for the sorrow he and his family faced.
The Last Lecture would make a great holiday stuffer for young or old. I'm going to try to live more like Pausch advises and hopefully others will, too.
This is an entry in the Lean-n-Mean VII write-off (please see http://www.epinions.com/user-sleeper54 for details) and, I think, the Disney write-off (see http://www.epinions.com/user-carstairs38).