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Visting fellow delivers ‘Last Lecture’

Katie McCarty | Friday, November 16, 2012

Dr. Andrew Bacevich, a visiting fellow from Boston University, gave his “Last Lecture” Thursday as a series of talks hosted by the Notre Dame Student Government. Their talks highlight a different visiting professor every week. The professor is asked to give his “Last Lecture” where he or she discusses his or her ideas on life and lessons learned throughout it.

Bacevich, a professor of International Relations, teaches a seminar course called “Ideas and American Foreign Policy” to students in history, peace studies and political science at Notre Dame. He is a visiting fellow through the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

Bacevich’s lecture focused on three main themes: vocation, history, and rootedness. He discussed regrets about mistakes he has made in his life in relation to these themes.

“This is an invitation to reflect on one’s life,” Bacevich said, “And it tends to unearth a sense of regret. There are things I would do differently if given the chance to do it all over again.”

Bacevich said what he had learned about life’s vocation in the context of his own upbringing.
Raised as a Catholic and sent to Catholic schools until college, he said he heard often of three paths of life.

“The nuns taught us that there are three vocations – religious life, marriage or the single life,” Bacevich said. “What they did not teach is a broader understanding of vocation – primarily the question ‘What am I called to do in my life?'”

Bacevich urged all students to address this question earnestly before they leave Notre Dame.

“The key to life is to do work that you find fulfilling and satisfying. What the world thinks about that work does not matter,” Bacevich said. “Deciding on your calling is your business and no one else’s.”

Bacevich then discussed his second theme, history. He urged all students, regardless of whether or not they are a history major, to use their time at Notre Dame “to think about the past and illuminate the present.”

Another point he made about history had to do with dealing with the past.

“The best thing we can do as human beings with history is cope with it,” Bacevich said.

Bacevich said he moved from place to place, never staying rooted, and said only when he began working at Boston University as a professor did he finally establish roots. “

“Being a part of a community is what makes us human,” Bacevich said. “I really wish I had discovered that earlier.”

Bacevich left the students with a final piece of advice.

“I encourage you to go have an adventure or two, but when you are finished, go back home, wherever it is, and put down some roots. It’s important to belong someplace,” he said.
“Regret is not the theme of my existence. … I have had many blessings, including being here at the University of Notre Dame.”

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