One Person Did Make a Difference

I’m sure you have heard by now of the passing of Carnegie Mellon University professor Randy Pausch from pancreatic cancer. While the fact this disease ultimately claimed his life is not a surprise given the virtually terminal nature of the illness, his passing still hurts and the emotional response both locally and nationally shows just how many lives he touched.

My words about his passing will not be the best, the most moving or the deepest thoughts about this man …. a man I never met. What I will see is that professor Pausch proved an adage that we often pay lip service to: that one person can make a difference.

We tell our children to reach for the stars and be all they can be, because they can make a difference as individuals. While that’s quite moving and inspiring, the truth is that we live in a society that doesn’t allow individuals to impact large numbers of people … at least in a legal way. Corporations run the world, politicians rarely listen to individual citizens and the bureaucracy of this country is so vast and deep, red tape holds down our dreams and desires.

Randy Pausch, his wife Jai and his three children: He said of his fate “I will not be able to raise my three children and that makes me sad”. Those words still bring tears to my eyes.

However, Randy Pausch impacted his community, his country and his world through a confluence of events. His message, his terminal disease and the power of modern technology worked to bring his story, unfiltered, to the masses. It was a message meant for his children, but resonated with children of all ages world-wide.

Randy Pausch made a difference in this world because left us with a blueprint to live our lives and to approach our deaths. He gave us an example of the attitude and courage necessary to execute the blueprint. Now, it’s up to us to not let Pausch’s lesson become lost amid the various things we have been taught over the years. While Pausch’s message is inspiring, it’s not for the faint of heart.

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