Homework for graduates

By: – Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief

The days of assigned school homework are over, at least for the summer, for most of the high school and college members of the Class of 2008. But young people about to enter new stages in life would do well to spend a few hours this summer with “The Last Lecture” by computer science professor Randy Pausch.

Pausch has terminal pancreatic cancer. He may be dead by the time you read this. But his words of practical wisdom will affect lives — including those of his three young children — for a very long time to come.

Last September, after learning of his diagnosis, Pausch asked to give a final lecture at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. His subject would be “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” which the fun-loving 47-year-old has accomplished very well despite his too-brief life. His message was videotaped, especially for the later benefit of his children. But someone made the video available on the Internet, and it has become a YouTube phenomenon.

Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” has been viewed 6 million times. And now it has led to a book of the same name, published by Disney-owned Hyperion, which is becoming a best seller.

The chapter titles of this easy read offer some of the advice he imparts. “Never give up.” “Watch what they do, not what they say.” “Don’t complain, just work harder.” “Dream big.” Treasures found within include “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you want,” and “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

Because of this book, I now have a stuffed Tigger the tiger on my desk. It reminds me, as Pausch says, that we make daily choices whether we are like that joy-filled character from Winnie the Pooh, or mopey and depressing like another Pooh character, the gloomy donkey Eeyore.

Unfortunately, neither the book nor the video lecture delves much into matters of faith. But there is a treasure of truth to recommend. For the Gospel truth, see Father Greg Ketcham’s commencement speech on the following page. Or consider the words that Father Charles Klamut, outgoing chaplain at Peoria Notre Dame High School, left the Class of 2008 with on Monday night at St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Truth has a name, said Father Klamut. It is Jesus. And Jesus is “the only rock solid certainty upon which to build the rest of your life.”

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