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Trudi Peterson presents her “Last Lecture”

November 5, 2010

It has been said that people fear public speaking more than death. Even communication studies professor, Trudi Peterson fears public speaking and said it is one of the hardest things for her to do. During the first lecture of Mortar Board’s of three-part “Last Lecture” series, which began on Thursday Nov. 5, Peterson stressed the importance of not being afraid to fail among other topics in her speech titled, “It’s Always Something,” based on comedian Gilda Radner’s famous line from her sketches on “Saturday Night Live.”

The “Last Lecture” series is based on the last lecture given by the late professor Randy Pausch at Carnegie Mellon University after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Along with Peterson, professors Mark Willhardt and Dick Johnston will be speaking on Nov. 11, and Nov. 18, in the Morgan Room at 7 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. respectively. All three professors have been asked, “If you had one last lecture to give at Monmouth College, what would you give it on?”

For Peterson, her “Last Lecture” covered a multitude of issues that have been important to her throughout her life, ranging from honesty, curiosity, forgiveness, humor and compassion. However, the subject discussed that was arguably most relevant for the audience of college undergraduates were her thoughts on how to navigate a life that is unfolding, especially when you do not know where it is going.

“The world is confusing. It’s our job to be curious and to learn as much as we can,” said Peterson. “Don’t try to plan everything. It won’t always play out how you want it to.”

In fact, Peterson struggled finding direction in college and stated that she never even thought about becoming a college professor.

“I went to college and really wanted to find all the answers,” said Peterson. “I changed my major five or six times and flailed around wanting certainty; wanting someone to rescue me. I never got that certainty.”

Finding a niche in college is a battle many students face; especially as graduation approaches for people who are unsure of where they want to go in life. However, Peterson has advice for these types of students.

“Be patient and be kind to yourself; it will work out,” said Peterson. “One way to figure out the world is to never stop learning, but be wary of the charismatic people who claim to have the answer. They don’t have it and they are the ones who get you to drink the Kool-Aid.”

Peterson also shared stories from her twenties about how she was always trying to be something she was not, and why it is important to be true to oneself and have forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is difficult and it’s especially hard to forgive yourself,” said Peterson. You’ll make mistakes, but you have to forgive yourself. I’m thankful for the moments I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth because I’ve learned from it.”

With all the advice Peterson had to offer the students in attendance, even she, the communication professor with a fear of public speaking needed help ending her speech. For that she sought the advice of her grandmother.

“I asked my grandma how I should end the lecture and she said, ‘It’s been one heck of a ride. When this life comes to a close I’ll slide out on my butt.’”

It’s always something with Peterson.


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