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The Last Lecture

by Randy Pausch

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Who was Randy Pausch's childhood idol in The Last Lecture, and why did he reject the "no-win scenario"?

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In chapter nine of The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch gets a phone call which will lead to the fulfillment of 666one of his childhood dreams. Like all kids, he had a hero; unlike most kids, Pausch's hero was Captain Kirk, played by the actor William Shatner. 

As a boy, he always admired Captain Kirk because, though he was not the brightest man on the ship (that distinction went to Mr. Spock, obviously) and was not mechanically inclined like Scotty, he was calm under pressure. In short, he was an effective leader, and Pausch believed he was a better person for emulating Captain Kirk in his real-life circumstances.

Pausch has done a lot of work connected to virtual reality, and Shatner wants to spend some time looking at the new technologies available in this field. Of course that is because his show, Star Trek, was rather cutting edge in its presentation of futuristic technology in the 1960s. The actor comes and spends three hours asking questions and enjoying the virtual version of the Enterprise's bridge. Just like when he was a boy, Pausch learns something from Shatner. If the actor did not know or understand something, he was not ashamed or embarrassed to ask. This is a good way to live, according to Pausch.

One of the most memorable scenes from Star Trek is when a young James T. Kirk is still a Starfleet cadet and is training with the simulator. He is given a so-called "no-win-scenario" to test his leadership and reasoning skills, and the young cadet simply says this now-famous line:

“I don’t believe in the no-win scenario.”

After Pausch was diagnosed with cancer, Shatner sends him a photograph of himself as Captain Kirk. It is signed with those famous words, designed, of course, to be an encouragement to Shatner's new friend during a difficult time. 

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