Chapter 28 Summary

Dream Big

The first man walked on the moon when Pausch was eight years old, in the summer of 1969. Once that happens, Pausch, even as a young boy, knows that anything is possible. This one act gives everyone all over the world permission to dream bigger dreams than ever before. Pausch is at camp that summer and, once the lunar module lands, all the campers are summoned to the main farm house to watch the television.

It takes the astronauts a long time to get organized before they can climb down the ladder and actually walk on the surface of the moon. Pausch can see they have a lot of gear and a lot of important details to which they must attend, so he watches patiently. The adults in the room, though, keep looking at their watches. It is already after eleven o’clock, and while the lunar landing team is making smart decisions, the staff at this camp here on earth makes a “dumb” decision: they send all of the campers to bed. It is just too late for the children to stay up any longer.

Of course Pausch is upset at the camp directors. He is amazed that they think going to bed by a certain time matters when people have landed on the moon for the first time in the history of the world.

Several weeks later, when he arrives home, Pausch learns that his father took a photo of the television set the moment Neil Armstrong placed his foot on the moon. His father preserved the memory, knowing it would help inspire big dreams in his son. Pausch still has that photo in a scrapbook.

It is true that the billions of dollars it took the government to put a man on the moon could have been spent to fight hunger or poverty on earth. Pausch understands that argument; however, he is a scientist who believes inspiration is the best tool for doing good. Money used to fight poverty might be well spent, but it is spent only on a very few. When money is used to put a man on the moon, it is an inspiration for everyone to achieve the greatest human potential—and that is how the world’s greatest problems can best be solved.

Each person should give himself permission to dream and to feed the dreams of others, especially the dreams of children. That may mean occasionally letting them stay up past their bedtimes.