Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Achieving Your Childhood Dreams 
(Teacher Appreciation Week)

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is an inspirational lecture by a professor of computer science who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Professor Randy Pausch was a 47-year-old man who had a wife and three small children—and three months to live. With precious time to waste, he felt the need to deliver one last message to his students, and mainly to his kids.  His lecture wasn’t about coping with dying. It was about living.  The lecture was titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” but it went into so much more than that.  Pausch weaved his optimism through stories of his life.  While the cancer lingered as a backdrop, the meat of the book contained tools for living an abundant life. He urged the need to never give up, the determination to follow your dreams and enable the dreams of others, as well as simple common sense tips like always telling the truth.  Some of his anecdotes were poignant.  Some were funny like the “dream” balloon ride with his new bride on their wedding day. As a teacher,
Randy was direct and demanding. He had high expectations of his students and wanted them to reach their potential. Pausch said: “I’m a scientist who sees inspiration as the ultimate tool for doing good.” He was actually talking about the inspiration of the moon landing in 1969, but he could just as well have been talking about himself.  With this book he leaves a force of motivation, not just for his students, but for others, too.  This book is saturated with life lessons for all of us.

Randy Pausch died on July 25, 2008. 

Visit to view the video of his “last lecture.”

“I’m a scientist who sees inspiration as the ultimate tool for doing good.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture (New York: Hyperion, 2008), 132.

“The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out.  The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture (New York: Hyperion, 2008), 51-52.

“…failure is not just acceptable, it’s often essential.”
Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture (New York: Hyperion, 2008), 148.


Mr. Edward Turek
Professor Pausch seems like one of those teachers where people lined up to get in his class.  Mr. Turek’s class was like that.  Marriage and Family, or something like that, was the name of the class that everyone at Eldorado High School wanted to get into. It was the class where you got to carry around an egg for a few weeks pretending it was your baby. It was supposed to be a lesson in responsibility, but for us teens, it was pure fun.  Like an infant, the egg was fragile and you had to take it everywhere with you or arrange for babysitting.  I really wanted to get into that class, but it was an elective, and electives were handled in an unusual manner back then.  Elective registration day was a normal day at the end of the school year, with one exception. Instead of attending our regular classes, when the bell rang we had run to the elective classroom and take a seat.  But like I said, Marriage and Family was a popular class.  There was an incident.  Injuries occurred. Tempers flared. No eggs would have survived.

When the bell rang that day, I was ready.  Like most people, I had worn a good pair of tennis shoes so I could sprint to Mr Turek’s Marriage and Family class.  Unfortunately, it was located on the other side of the school and I reached his door at the same time as a mob of other students arrived. We all tried to squish through the door at the same time. People were pushing and screaming.  Someone lost their shoe in the doorway. An elbow met someone’s eye.  I guess the parenting training was already underway.  These teens were getting ready for their future kids’ soccer games.

Mr. Turek took command. He was a big man and quickly controlled the mob.  Like sheep everyone stopped pushing and slowly, orderly filed into the classroom. Sadly, by the time I made my way into the room, I was out of luck.  There were no more seats to be had.  I was kicked off the team.  The rejected ones left the classroom quietly, much different than our arrival.  So with our heads hung we searched for other elective courses.  But by that time all the other cool electives were also full.  I finally found my way to the Music Appreciation course way out behind the cafeteria along with the three other people who had nowhere to go.  The teacher was nice enough, but there were no eggs involved in this class.  That, and the fact that I didn't play an instrument or sing, left me feeling out of sorts.  A few days later I transferred to a Shorthand class. Ask me how much I remember about that one.    That was the last year electives were handled in the “sprint and sit” fashion. 

H.B. "Playing in the yard."
I moved on, but I wasn't happy about it. What added salt to my wound was that my little sister got into the class the following year.  And there she was with her cute little egg all dressed up taking pictures with him on the lawn.  Such a happy little family. In keeping with the trends of the time, his name was H.B., sort of like J.R. Ewing on the TV show Dallas.  I don’t know what J.R. ever stood for, but H.B. was short for hard boiled. For me it was a hard boiled lesson that you don’t always get what you want in life.  But I can’t complain.  I now have two kids of my own—the real life kind.  No eggs here. Life is good.

Other teachers who have made a difference in my life:  Mr. Erbe and Mr. Haynes, and of course, Mrs. Vento. 

Teacher Appreciation Week starts May 6th.  Is there a teacher that made a difference in your life? Enter a comment or email me at and I will post your answer.

Happy reading!


What did you think of this book? Post a comment or email:


  1. Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.- The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is a heart-breaking yet heart-warming book. It made me contemplate the real value of my life .

    1. Sounds like you did like the book even though Randy Pausch was offering his own life lessons? I agree with you that it was heart-breaking and heart warming. His struggles and way of facing them with optimism was something I will hopefully keep with me and learn from.