26 July 2008

Role Models

If you have opened www.google.com (the english language version) today, you might have noticed this line in the bottom of the page:

"In Memoriam: Randy Pausch (1960-2008)"

I clicked on the link today, and spent more than an hour watching a university lecture unlike any lecture I've ever seen or attended. But more on that later.

I've often seen interviews where the journalist asks the person interviewed who has been his role model. For a large part of my life I wouldn't have a good answer if someone had asked me that. I felt that was a bit weird, and also worrying. What was I missing by not having a role model? I wasn't sure I really understood what a role model was even...

As I started studying for my bachelors degree this changed. A few of the students at my university college really impressed me. They were smart, they were able to achieve great things and at the same time they were really nice and friendly. This was people that made me think "I wish I was like that". And I saw what being a natural leader meant. I found my first role models.

When I moved on to university I met a lot more people like this. It was inspiring to be around these people, it made me want to work a little harder, and set my goals a little higher. I understood the value and importance of good role models.

Another quality of a role model, and a very important one, is showing strength in hard times. It's in the tough moments and times you see what people are made of. One person who has showed this strength in a wonderful way is the man Google honors on their web site today, Randy Pausch. He died from cancer yesterday, and displayed strength in hard times in a very special way at the end of his life.

He was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in computer science, recognized for his work in computing education and human computer interaction (HCI).

What made him gain world wide fame was his amazing "The Last Lecture". Full version here, and a news story about Pausch and the lecture here. This was given in September 2007, at a time he knew he was dying from cancer. The title of the lecture was "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams," and told of his childhood dreams and how he achieved most of them. Pausch was upbeat and humurous during the lecture, while not being in denial, not at all behaving like one might expect from a dying man.

The lecture is very entertaining, touching and inspiring, and shows a man with an amazing strength when facing the end of his life. He was definitively a great role model, not only by showing strength when facing death, but also in many other ways, and I think the memory of him will inspire many in the time to come.

Rest in peace.

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