Lately, I have found inspiration from Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh with an extraordinary gift for living. Sadly, Pausch died on July 25, 2008, of pancreatic cancer.
Although I’ve never met Pausch, I try to live by his words. In his famous speech known as “The Last Lecture,” Pausch did not speak about death even though doctors had given him only three to six months of “good health left.”
“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand,” he said. “If I don’t seem as depressed or morose as I should be, sorry to disappoint you.”
Instead, Pausch spoke about “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.” Since visiting Disneyland when he was 8 years old, Pausch had wanted to be a Disney Imagineer and build theme park attractions. Unfortunately, when he graduated with his Ph.D., he was unceremoniously rejected. “So that was a bit of a setback,” he said. “But remember, the brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”
Several years later, Pausch fulfilled his dream when he, having become a famous virtual reality researcher, heard about Disney’s Aladdin magic carpet ride and convinced both Disney and the university to allow him to work on the project. Pausch also dreamed of playing in the NFL. Although that dream didn’t materialize, he said, “I probably got more from that dream and not accomplishing it than I got from any of the ones that I did accomplish.”
These stories demonstrate that perseverance pays off and that working hard to achieve something is a great gift by itself. As part of his closing, Pausch said, the speech was actually not about achieving your dreams; “it’s about how to lead your life. If you lead your life the right way, the karma will take care of itself. The dreams will come to you.”
Pausch’s last lecture is particularly relevant to this issue of Halftime Magazine. Throughout this magazine, you will find people living out their dreams—whether those dreams involve a Drum Corps International World Championship or being a musician at Disneyland. World athletes dream their whole life for one chance, one day, one race that could win them the Olympic gold. The cover story, “Olympic Dreams,” travels to Beijing with 1,800 student musicians and guard performers who never even knew they could experience their own Olympic moments.
For me, Halftime Magazine fulfills one of my lifelong dreams. I hope that in some small way, it also enables and inspires yours, whether in the marching arts or not.
Dream big, and make it happen.
Christine Ngeo Katzman
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
Photo by Joshua Katzman