Friday, May 9, 2008

Randy Pausch's Last Lecture Part-9

The next version's going to come out in 2008. It's going to be teaching the Java language if you want them to know they're learning Java. Otherwise they'll just think that they're writing movie scripts. And we're getting the characters from the bestselling PC video game in history, The Sims. And this is already working in the lab, so there's no real technological risk. I don't have time to thank and mention everybody in the Alice team, but I just want to say that Dennis Cosgrove is going to be building this, has been building this. He is the designer. This is his baby. And for those of you who are wondering, well, in some number of months who should I be emailing about the Alice project, where's Wanda Dann? Oh, there you are. Stand up, let them all see you. Everybody say, Hi Wanda.

Audience: Hi, Wanda.

Randy Pausch: Send her the email. And I'll talk a little bit more about Caitlin Kelleher, but she's graduated with her Ph.D., and she's at Washington University, and she's going to be taking this up a notch and going to middle schools with it. So, grand vision and to the extent that you can live on in something, I will live on in Alice.

All right, so now the third part of the talk. Lessons learned. We've talked about my dreams. We've talked about helping other people enable their dreams. Somewhere along the way there's got to be some aspect of what lets you get to achieve your dreams.

First one is the rule of parents, mentors and students. I was blessed to have been born to two incredible people. This is my mother on her 70th birthday. [Shows slide of Randy's mom driving a race car on an amusement park race course] [laughter] I am back here. I have just been lapped. [laughter]

This is my dad riding a roller coaster on his 80th birthday. [Shows slide of dad] And he points out that he's not only brave, he's talented because he did win that big bear the same day. My dad was so full of life, anything with him was an adventure. [Shows picture of his Dad holding a brown paper bag.] I don't know what's in that bag, but I know it's cool. My dad dressed up as Santa Claus, but he also did very, very significant things to help lots of people.

This is a dormitory in Thailand that my mom and dad underwrote. And every year about 30 students get to go to school who wouldn't have otherwise. This is something my wife and I have also been involved in heavily. And these are the kind of things that I think everybody ought to be doing. Helping others.

But the best story I have about my dad -- unfortunately my dad passed away a little over a year ago -- and when we were going through his things, he had fought in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge, and when we were going through his things, we found out he had been awarded the Bronze Star for Valor. My mom didn't know it. In 50 years of marriage it had just never come up.

My mom. [Shows picture of Randy as a young child, pulling his Mom's hair]. Mothers are people who love even when you pull their hair. And I have two great mom stories. When I was here studying to get my Ph.D. and I was taking something called the theory qualifier, which I can definitively say is the second worst thing in my life after chemotherapy. [laughter] And I was complaining to my mother about how hard this test was and how awful it was, and she just leaned over and she patted me on the arm and she said, we know how you feel honey, and remember when your father was your age he was fighting the Germans. [laugher] After I got my Ph.D., my mother took great relish in introducing me as, this is my son, he's a doctor but not the kind that helps people. [laughter] These slides are a little bit dark [meaning "hard to see"], but when I was in high school I decided to paint my bedroom. [shows slides of bedroom] I always wanted a submarine and an elevator. And the great thing about this [shows slide of quadratic formula painted on wall] [interrupted by laughter] -- what can I say?

And the great thing about this is they let me do it. And they didn't get upset about it. And it's still there. If you go to my parent's house it's still there. And anybody who is out there who is a parent, if your kids want to paint their bedroom, as a favor to me let them do it. It'll be OK. Don't worry about resale value on the house.

Other people who help us besides our parents: our teachers, our mentors, our friends, our colleagues. God, what is there to say about Andy Van Dam? When I was a freshman at Brown, he was on leave. And all I heard about was this Andy Van Dam. He was like a mythical creature. Like a centaur, but like a really pissed off centaur.

And everybody was like really sad that he was gone, but kind of more relaxed? And I found out why. Because I started working for Andy. I was a teaching assistant for him as a sophomore. And I was quite an arrogant young man. And I came in to some office hours and of course it was nine o'clock at night and Andy was there at office hours, which is your first clue as to what kind of professor he was. And I come bounding in and you know, I'm just I'm going to save the world. There're all these kids waiting for help, da da, da da, da da, da da, da da.

And afterwards, Andy literally Dutch-uncled -- he's Dutch, right? He Dutch-uncled me. And he put his arm around my shoulders and we went for a little walk and he said, Randy, it's such a shame that people perceive you as so arrogant. Because it's going to limit what you're going to be able to accomplish in life. What a hell of a way to word "you're being a jerk." [laughter] Right? He doesn't say you're a jerk. He says people are perceiving you this way and he says the downside is it's going to limit what you're going to be able to accomplish.

When I got to know Andy better, the beatings became more direct, but. [laughter] I could tell you Andy stories for a month, but the one I will tell you is that when it came time to start thinking about what to do about graduating from Brown, it had never occurred to me in a million years to go to graduate school. Just out of my imagination. It wasn't the kind of thing people from my family did. We got, say, what do you call them? …. jobs.


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