McMenamin Gives Reflective Last Lecture
Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
On Tuesday, Dec. 6, the Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) continued their Last Lecture series with a talk given by David McMenamin, director of the Pulse Program. The Last Lecture Series is a biannual event put on by AID that was started by Randy Pausch a professor at Carnegie Mellon University. After being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, Pausch gave a final address to his students in Sept. 2007 reflecting upon the great questions and challenges of life. His speech has inspired the Last Lecture series at other universities around the country.
McMenamin is a professor of philosophy and the director of the Pulse program at Boston College. He has been a member of the BC community for over 20 years and an influential voice in higher education.
McMenamin's popularity with his students was strongly demonstrated by the incredible amount of attendees who packed themselves into Gasson 305 on Tuesday night. Students crowded into the room to hear him speak, lining small spaces behind the seats, sitting in close quarters on the floor, and even listening from the hallway. Rough estimates on attendance were between 110 and 130 people. McMenamin found the attendance "a tremendous compliment to myself that so many of you would come out here because you believe I have something worthwhile to say.
"I only have a few things to say and myself to offer. I just hope I can be at least entertaining, although I should probably be shooting for outright inspiring," McMenamin said at the beginning of the lecture.
The focus of McMenamin's lecture was the word "beloved."
"Being beloved is something I have to struggle to deserve, as it is something we should all struggle to deserve," said McMenamin. "So whether I can really claim to be beloved, whether it's true or not, it's exactly what almost everyone one of us wants the most, to be beloved."
McMenamin spoke about his different take on BC's goal of finding a place in the world for its students.
"I developed a vision of a just and loving society which is what I'm most passionate about," McMenamin said. "It is important for anyone who wants to be beloved to look outside ourselves for our passions, to develop our talents in such a way to serve that vision or passion. I should love to do the things I do because they serve my passion, not because they are my passion."
McMenamin asserted that he was influenced greatly by the period of time during which he "became of age." This period of time was racked with violence, including both the Vietnam War and massive race riots in American cities.
"These events led me to become increasingly bitter and cynical until I became rather ill, but had the good fortune to be surrounded by people who got me through that time primarily by their love," McMenamin said. "This taught me how to respond to the violence and turmoil around me."
He continued to discuss how everything in his life has led him to believe that people are at their best when they are attentive to every situation they are in and try to learn from those situations while responding to the needs of others. He stressed the importance of "working for those we work for, not those we work under. I work under the BC administration, but I work for my students," he said.
"I believe we all want to be beloved, I think we wonder how to do that," McMenamin said in summary. "I believe that some of the ways to achieve this are to be passionate, attentive, responsive, consistent, in service, working for needs of those you work for, and to be humble. This list of qualities reveals the way to become beloved is to become loving. Loving is one thing we are all capable of, and if we want to be beloved, we must love." However, he wanted to stress to students that love is not just a feeling, but rather an activity that must be undertaken wisely.