Last Friday, July 25, 2008, Diane Sawyer announced on Good Morning America that Randy Pausch had passed away. Who was Pausch? Well, for one he was a Professor of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as well as a best-selling author. But most notably, he achieved worldwide fame for his “The Last Lecture” speech on September 18, 2007.
It all began with one, age-old question: What would you say if you knew you were going to die and had a chance to sum up everything that was most important to you? For Pausch though, the question was too real. Pausch, a father of three small children with his wife Jai, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer—and given six months to live. But instead of focusing on his death, Pausch spoke about his childhood dreams. He went on to attain almost all of those dreams, but they didn’t all come easy.
In the lecture, he spoke of overcoming the obstacles that may seem insurmountable. One of the reasons Pausch was so highly thought of by his students was his extraordinary way of looking at obstacles: “The brick walls are there for a reason,” he said during his last lecture. “The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.” In essence, he was telling his students, ‘it was there to keep others out, not us’.