Pursuing Happiness in Philly and Beyond

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 Video by Joe O'Neill

Alumni gather in Philadelphia to unravel mysteries of the human experience

Several generations of alumni shone new light on an age-old question when they gathered to discuss the pursuit of happiness during a panel discussion and reception in Philadelphia, the latest of several Dickinson events this spring that bring together alumni, parents, faculty and current students to connect as they consider a common theme.

Held in the National Constitution Center, the Philadelphia event was a part of Dickinson's One College One Community discussion series. Last fall, Dickinsonians engaged in conversations—on campus, across the U.S. and, via the Internet, around the world—about James Balog’s stunning environmental documentary, Chasing Ice. This spring's conversations center on the award-winning documentary Happy, which examines the sources of happiness in the lives of people around the world.

"It’s a real issue for our time," said Board of Trustees member John E. Jones III '77, P'11, who served on the April 28 panel along with Doug Edlin, associate professor of political science; Eric Neumeister '15 (international studies); and Frank Williams '15 (law & policy, Africana studies). "And to have a gathering of over 100 Dickinsonians from virtually all class [years,] going back 50-plus years, is just a marvelous thing." 

That age diversity is helpful, because people from different generations may have different understandings about what happiness might mean, added Edlin, who noted that the founding fathers' thoughts on the matter, illuminated in the Declaration of Independence, certainly held a distinctive view.

The Philadelphia event was preceded by several Dickinson screenings of Happy, which was shown to all incoming first-years at the start of the academic year, and a campus lecture by the documentary's director, Roko Belic, which attracted approximately 75 alumni in person and online. Associate Professor of East Asian Studies Shawn Bender led a late-April discussion in Washington, D.C., about happiness in the social-media era.

Associate Professor of American Studies Cotten Seiler rounds out this season's One College One Community events with an April 29 lecture in Boston that questioned the very concept of happiness and a May 4 lecture in New York City titled "A Right to Pursue Happiness: Says Who? Since When?" As with all One College One Community events, Dickinsonians are invited to attend in person, or to participate online, via live streaming, from wherever they are.

Follow the @DickinsonAlumni twitter account for links to the live-streams as well as live-tweeting from many One College One Community events. 

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Published April 30, 2015