Democracy in Practice
A diverse people can self-govern

“And the Pursuit of Happiness:” Being a citizen in a democracy that wants us happy. Hmmm.

Perhaps a more remarkable sentiment has never before been written into the charter of a rebellion that ultimately became our government: “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.” While the “created equal” part of this remarkable sentence is a central part of our civic discussion, “the pursuit of happiness” gets less attention. Constitutional scholar Danielle Allen calls this “the second facet of equality” “the fundamental principle of human equality” and “the Declaration’s most beautiful aspect” in that it makes us each our own judge of our happiness — and thus of our equality. As a part of the Smithsonian “Voices and Votes: Democracy in America” exhibit, we’ll spend an evening talking about happiness — about how well America keeps charting this course and if citizens have a responsibility to each other in making this true for all Americans. We’ll talk about the declaration’s “sublime optimism about human potential.”

Potential panelists: Inside the context of beginning this conversation working from the exhibit and the founding document, this is a great program to just feature any very cool people you know. The topic is good because it’s so accessible to everyone — and matters so much to everyone.