Saturday, January 17, 2009

Project 3 Speech : The Last Lecture

A lady used to introduce her young son to people like this. She would say, “This is my son. He is a doctor. But not the kind who helps people. He is a PhD”. But this young proved his mother wrong. Many years later he inspired thousands of people across the globe by helping them to handle their problems with courage and to enjoy their lives to it’s fullest. He achieved this by giving just one lecture, by writing just one book and in just one year’s time – the last year of his life. He was Prof. Randy Pausch of Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh. Today I am going to talk about his Last Lecture and try and get you interested enough to watch it on the Internet.

Many US universities ask their professors to deliver a so-called “Last Lecture”. Speakers need to imagine that it will be their last lecture before they die and must talk about what matters to them most. When Randy gave such a lecture he was already diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer and had been given a maximum of six months to live.

But the way he cheerfully delivered the lecture, you have to see it to believe it. He first announced as a matter of fact that he was dying of illness and he joked, “ We cannot change the card we are dealt, just how we play the hand. If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you”. He then went on to talk about
· His childhood dreams and how he achieved them.
· People who helped him to achieve his dreams
· His values – honesty, integrity and gratitude.
· The lessons he learnt in his life.
The dying professor’s lecture was all about how to make most out of one’s life. It was delivered with such a terrific sense of humor, that it kept the audience laughing and applauding all along.

This lecture’s video was made available on the internet and over 10 million people have viewed it till date. It has made a profound impact on most of the viewers. Many of them said that after watching the lecture they stopped complaining about trivial matters, indulging in self-pity and feel motivated to take concrete actions to make things better for them. Many said that the lecture has prompted them to pay more attention to their families. Parents said that the lecture has made them realize the need for encouraging creativity in their children. For many terminally ill patients this lecture was a lesson in facing death with courage and making the best use of the remaining life.

When I watched this lecture I felt that apart from its inspirational value it could also be an excellent educational material for the Toastmasters. If you watch this lecture you will come to know
· How to communicate the scope of your speech
· How to speak enthusiastically with a sense of humor
· How to use body language and visual aids
· How to lend a personal touch to your speech
· How to conclude strongly and make a lasting impact on the audience

You will find this lecture very helpful in preparing and delivering your project speeches.
So I urge each one of you to visit the site and watch the video of the lecture, which is a free, download. I also suggest an educational session where we watch this video together and have an experienced Toastmaster comment on it. If you want to know more about Randy’s personal and professional life, I would strongly recommend reading his book “The Last Lecture”. It was a No.1 Best seller.

Randy passed away last July. He leaves behind his wife and 3 small kids. Randy said that his last lecture and his book were meant only for his kids. He wanted to leave a message for them to understand once they grew up. In his book’s introduction Randy says “Under the ruse of giving an academic lecture, I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children. If I were a painter, I would have painted for them. If I were a musician, I would have composed music. But I am a lecturer. So I lectured”.

Randy’ lecture might have meant only for his kids. But it also lent a healing touch of optimism and pragmatism for thousands of troubled souls. No wonder his close friends used to pull his leg and call him “St. Randy of Pittsburgh”!

[Date Delivered: 17 January 2009


  • Select a speech topic and determine its general and specific purposes
  • Organize the speech in a manner that best achieves those purposes
  • Ensure the beginning, body and conclusion reinforce the purposes
  • Project sincerity and conviction and control any nervousness you may feel
  • Strive not to use notes
Time Alloted: Five to Seven minutes]


  1. Thanks for the link. I was able to learn something from your speech. The Phrases; Water adds years to your life; Wisdom adds life to your years; It was very catchy and depicts the essence of preserving and nurturing water and wisdom respectively. I am starting my day with a good note. Thanks Gopi !


  2. Excellent topic and speech to the point Sir.