The Last Lecture Discussion Questions

Instructor: Grace Pisano

Grace attended James Madison University has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in teaching. She previously taught high school social studies in several states around the country.

Randy Pausch wrote ''The Last Lecture'' after a talk he gave at Carnegie Melon in 2007. The book is full of wisdom and insight on how to live your best life and achieve your goals. Updated: 05/28/2019

The Last Lecture

When he was a professor at Carnegie Melon University, Randy Pausch and several other professors were asked to give a lecture that would describe their best wisdom and life advice. Only a month before he gave the lecture, Pausch learned that his pancreatic cancer was fatal and that he had less than a year to live. After the lecture, Pausch wrote the book The Last Lecture with journalist Jeffrey Zaslow. This book talks about life lessons, success and goals. It is ripe for discussion amongst your high school and post-secondary students. Use these questions to help students think critically about the book.

Questions on Plot

  • Pausch recounts many of the ways his parents encouraged him to pursue his dreams. He goes into details of how he accomplished many of his childhood dreams- even ones that seem impossible when you initially read about them. How do you think his life would have turned out differently if his parents had not encouraged him to pursue these dreams?
  • Almost undeniably, Pausch has some unique and amazing experiences that almost anyone could be envious of. What is the role of luck versus hard work in achieving these? When Pausch's application to work for Disney was originally denied, do you think he thought that dream was dead?
  • We are all the sum of our experiences. Which of Pausch's life experiences do you think was most influential in the man he became?
  • What emotions did you feel at the end of the book when Pausch becomes personal with his messages for his wife and children? Think about the rest of the book -- why do you think Pausch puts them in this very public and widely read book instead of a personal note?
  • How is the symbolism of the ''head-fake'' woven throughout the book? Think about its introduction at the very beginning of the book to the statements he makes about it at the end. Did you see this coming?
  • What do you think Pausch would think of the famous quote from the poem ''Invictus'' by William Ernest Henley, ''I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.''

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