"What if I hadn't shown up today?"I asked this question to the graduates at Wingate University on Saturday as I began the commencement address that Wingate President Jerry McGee had invited me to deliver.Many in the audience smiled, thinking that if I were not there to give my speech, things would move quickly to the part of the program when they crossed the stage, received their diplomas and in one special moment were transformed into Wingate University graduates.But McGee knew that even if I cancelled, there would be a graduation address. You see, at each Wingate graduation, McGee has a prepared speech in his pocket ready for him to deliver in case something happens to the scheduled speaker.What McGee did not know was that his speech was going to be the central theme of my speech. When I learned that he constantly revises his speech and keeps it up-to-date, I was intrigued.For a little while I wondered if all his time and attention to constantly revising a speech that nobody will ever hear is a worthwhile activity for a busy university president.Well, of course it is. The constant revision of that speech becomes the vehicle for him to focus on what is most important to him, on what his life is about, and on what he has learned over his lifetime that he would share with Wingate graduates if the expected speaker cancelled.When something happens that might be important enough to pass on, he makes a note and considers whether it might have a place in his speech. Thus a part of his life is the regular, disciplined evaluation of what is central to him. By writing these things down, he seals their meaning as a part of himself.But this speech that is never given helps prepare him for the words he speaks and the actions he takes every day. Whenever he is called on to tell others what he believes, what a life of service is all about or how best to deal with life's challenges, he doesn't have to make it up. He has already written it down and rehearsed it.McGee reminded me of Randy Pausch, a young professor at Carnegie Mellor University whose "Last Lecture" has gained national attention and admiration. Pausch described the "last lecture" custom of some college campuses where very senior professors "are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?"Pausch gave his own "last lecture" a few months ago, shortly after he learned that he has terminal cancer. His impending death gave his speech a special urgency and poignancy for his listeners. You will read and hear more about "The Last Lecture" in the coming weeks. There will be a book and lots of news reports. Word about his speech spread though news reports, and millions of people have already found his lecture on the Internet. As I came to realize the benefits that McGee gained by writing and rewriting his speech, I urged the Wingate graduates to write their own "graduation speeches" or "last lectures." Begin today, I told them, as if you might have to give your speech tomorrow. Start revising tomorrow, and continue revising throughout life, just like President McGee.Why am I sharing these thoughts with you, the readers of my column? It's simple. If writing a speech is good for McGee and the Wingate graduates, it is good for you, too.Start writing, as if you were going to give your "last lecture" tomorrow.