Robin Williams and College Life

The tragic death of Robin Williams on August 11, 2014 struck a chord at the heart of a lot of different people in a lot of different ways. The actor/comedian was an eccentric genius with the unique ability to make you laugh and cry. I first fell in love with Williams through his portrayal of Genie in Disney’s Aladdin. At the news of his death, I, like many, took to the Internet to reminiscence over old clips from his films wanting to remember and laugh.

What does Robin Williams and the characters he played have to do with what college students want most out of life? More than you would think…

Disney’s Aladdin 

“Oh, to be free! Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasure in the world.” 

Every fall, we come into college with high hopes of freedom. Freedom from parents, old habits, and a haunting past. College offers that chance to reinvent yourself and experience new things. Unfortunately, we usually don’t find more freedom in new experiences, but just adopt new and deeper insecurities, burdens, and anxieties.

We don’t need new experiences. We need forgiveness. True freedom comes only from someone who has the power to set you free from what really enslaves: sin and death. Christ’s death on the cross takes our sin and the empty tomb takes our death. Oh to be truly free this semester! 

Good Will Hunting  

"You don't know about real loss because it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much." 

Every fall, we come into college with high hopes of love. Can you blame us? We have grown up in a culture obsessed with love. We have been convinced that our lives won’t have meaning either until we find the “one” or until we get every person we set our eyes on.

In Good Will Hunting, Williams plays a counselor who guides a very intelligent, but troubled young man (played by Matt Damon) through the deep wounds in his life. Damon’s character can’t love others because he’s too busy loving himself.

Love isn’t easy; it comes with real loss, suffering, and heartache. Our versions of love are more like lust – we use the opposite sex in order to satisfy our own needs and desires. Lust ends and love begins at the end of ourselves. 1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that Jesus laid down his life for us.”  True love comes from a Savior who dared to love us more than he loved himself. Oh to be truly loved this semester.

Dead Poet’s Society  

“That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be? Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." 

Every fall, we come into college with high hopes of success. College is a wonderful avenue to success through academics, organizations, and an extensive list of other opportunities. Robin Williams, in Dead Poet’s Society, plays a professor that inspires his students not to settle in life, but to make a difference, to be extraordinary. 

Research has shown that a funny thing happens when you get around the age of fifty: suddenly, you stop worrying about being successful at your job, padding your resume, and hoping to work your way up the corporate ladder. Your focus shifts from being successful to being influential: making your life count for more than just yourself. This is William’s motivation in the movie, hoping to get across the message of influence, rather than worldly success. How do you make your life truly extraordinary? Live for something that is truly extraordinary. Seize the day, by seizing Jesus and his great mission: one that will last long after our lives come and go on this earth. Oh, to live a life for Jesus that’s truly extraordinary this semester.


I never got a chance to meet Robin Williams. I, obviously, did not know him personally, but I am thankful for him and the wisdom I have learned from his roles in movies. I pray that he knew Jesus and I pray that we all would be more like Jesus because of him.

Luke Rakestraw