The Declaration of Independence and The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence and the pursuit of happiness are a good combination to celebrate on this Fourth of July holiday.

Former Congressman Marty Russo joins Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio to discuss.

It was fun to join Lisa Cypers Kamen on her Harvesting Happiness Talk Radio show for a half hour discussion of how our founders saw happiness.  I met Lisa in Scottsdale, AZ when she moderated interviews at the American Sleep and Breathing Academy conference.

Check out the podcast here or on iTunes.

Original Declaration of Independence

Original Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is considered the most influential document in American history.  If you are ever in Washington DC it’s worth a trip to the National Archives to see it in person.

The second sentence in the Declaration reads:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  This idea was based on the ideas of English philosopher John Locke who wrote that people have a “natural right to life, liberty and property.”

However, in the initial draft Thomas Jefferson changed “property” to “pursuit of happiness.” Although Jefferson’s first draft was highly edited,  the phrase “pursuit of happiness” stayed in the final version.  So it must have been important.

What is the pursuit of happiness?

DC-FIREWORKS

DC-FIREWORKS

What’s interesting is that in 1776 happiness was defined differently than today.  The minds of the great political thinkers of the 18th century tied the concept of happiness to civic responsibility.  In the context of the Declaration, happiness was more about an individual’s contribution to society rather than pursuits of self-gratification.   Our country was founded on the concept of liberty and freedom and the responsibility to contribute to society.  In fact, the purpose of the Constitution is to provide the framework of government to protect our right to pursue happiness.

The Fourth of July is a good reminder to us all that the Declaration of Independence is about pursuing the kind of happiness that comes from making our country and the world a better place.  That’s showing true leadership.

Whatever you are interested in, find a way to get involved and have your voice heard.   My observation over the years is that people who get involved in civic interests and helping other in the community are happier.   There’s a number of ways you can get involved –here’s a few:

  • Work with neighbors on a community issue.
  • Go to a public meeting on an issue that’s important to you
  • Volunteer to help other in need
  • Register voters
  • Volunteer for a campaign for someone who is running for public office
  • Find an organization that is active on issues that are important to you and volunteer your time and money

The Fourth of July is a good time to get re-energized on making the world a better place.

 


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