This third named right in the Declaration of Independence is built on liberty. Pursuing happiness, in its myriad forms, cannot be accomplished without the freedom to do so. And true happiness combines individual and common good, both as U.S. citizens and as Jugheads.
As with liberty, true happiness needs a moral compass. Founding Father Samuel Adams wrote in 1778, “Religion and good morals are the only solid foundation of public liberty and happiness.” Even if one were to dismiss his claim of religion as a prime ingredient to happiness, good morals can scarcely be argued away as a key to: earning trust with others; developing a good reputation; and leaving a track record of all-around blessings meted through loving behavior. This solid foundation bears fruit in the form of happiness.
A lesser-known fact about “the pursuit of Happiness” in the Declaration is that Thomas Jefferson based it on 17th century philosopher John Locke, who wrote about “life, liberty and property.” Not only is this a fascinating (and elsewhere confirmed) endorsement of private property rights (including intangible “property” such as intellect and human dignity), but it fittingly flies in the face of the arch-nemesis of American ideals: Communism. The first plank of the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx (1848) is “Abolition of private property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.” Whether the right to own a home or land or a business, property was affirmed by America’s founders as a tool for freedom-fueled pursuits.
As the American ideal of pursuing happiness applies to JH, kids are free to pursue their forms of happiness on a daily basis. Even on busy rehearsal days, each child still gets a say over snack choice, friend interactions, free-time juggling, and deeper investment through Showcase routines, emcee opportunities, and elective elements to our group routines. Our camps offer the widest potential of choice, with kids immersing in both skills and relationships without the pressure of homework, choreography, or running to and fro as much as usual.
Finally, I’ve always compared the patriotic phrase “the land of opportunity” as parallel to pursuing happiness. Both America and JH offer many opportunities for improvement, advancement, and fulfillment, but neither the government nor my staff & I are (or should be) intended to either hinder success or excessively aid in the realization of such opportunities. In our microcosm of America, when a child learns to juggle, he or she really owns the skill–no one juggles for them. Provide an opportunity, and the wise person seizes it–even through much trial & error. Happiness is then realized, shared by the influencers, and multiplied among those looking on.