Caroline Dotson: Lasting words from 'The Last Lecture'


— Randy Pausch, author of "The Last Lecture," was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September 2006. A computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, Randy had a lot to lose between his career and family.

He and his wife, Jai, have three small children, Dylan is 6, Logan is 3, and Chloe is 18 months.

Randy wanted to leave something behind for his children - children he wouldn't see grow up. He would not see them off on their first date, graduate from high school, marry or begin parenthood. So, he wanted something that would speak to them thought their lives.

Carnegie Mellon had a "Journey" lecture series, which essentially was a "reflection of the professor's personal and professional journey," a last lecture. When Randy was asked to participate in the lecture series, he had only months to live.

Randy decided that along with his "Journey" lecture at Carnegie Mellon, he also would collect his words, thoughts and memories and assemble them in a book.

With the help of Jeffrey Zaslow and many others, Randy was able to publish "The Last Lecture."

In Randy's lecture, he introduces his cancer - the "elephant in the room" - and he explains how he achieved his "childhood dreams," such as playing in the NFL, being Captain Kirk and working for Disney.

He goes on to recount the time he spent wooing his wife and how he escaped a speeding ticket by telling the officer the truth - that he was dying. Even though Randy was sentenced to the sad fate of an early death, he still was living life to the fullest.

Near the end of the book, Randy shares a bundle of proverb-like sayings that he found to be important in his life - helping others achieve their dreams, handwriting thank you notes and never giving up. These are a few of the many sayings Randy finds inspiring in order to lead a fulfilling life.

The book ends with Randy telling the story of how he ended the last lecture. He has a birthday cake for his wife rolled out on stage, the audience sang happy birthday, she comes on stage and whispers to Randy, "Please don't die."

Randy still is alive today and has undergone a form of chemotherapy that has allowed him to live a year longer than anyone thought possible.

I found Randy's story to be touching, and I believe his last lecture will be important to his children as they grow.

His story reminds me of the great advice I have received throughout the years, such as, pay attention to what people do, not what they say; complain less and work more.

I learned that "experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." With all my life experience, just like Randy, that could be my motto.

Randy Pausch has a Web site and blog at

"The Last Lecture" is published by Hayperion and is available at Downtown Books for $21.95.


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