The first national Happiness conference will be held in Seattle this week. The conference, which brings together more than 150 experts and activists from as far away as South Africa, and from more than a dozen U.S. states begins Friday, August 24, at 1 pm in Seattle University’s Campion Ballroom and extend through 9 pm Saturday, August 25.
The keynote speaker (Saturday at 1:45 pm in Pigott Auditorium, and open to the public at large) is Eric Weiner, former NPR reporter and author of the best-seller, The Geography of Bliss, a story of his search for the world’s happiest countries.
Other prominent speakers include Vicki Robin, author of the best-selling Your Money or Your Life, local author Cecile Andrews, Tom Barefoot, director of the Vermont-based organization, Gross National Happiness USA, Rita Hibbard, director of the Compassionate Action Network, prominent ecological economist Robert Costanza, Laura Musikanski, director of the Happiness Initiative and psychologist Ryan Howell, creator of the Happiness Initiative national survey.
“This is the first comprehensive conference about happiness we’re aware of,” says conference coordinator Orna Locker, co-director of Sustainable Ballard. “We’ve got more than 50 excellent speakers on topics ranging from economic and policy decisions affecting happiness to personal change. We see this as a strategic gathering to begin to implement the United Nations’ call to refocus our national policies on happiness.”
In July, 2011, a unanimous United Nations declaration urged member nations to concentrate on “the pursuit of happiness” rather than unsustainable economic growth and to seek ways to measure their success. A UN conference in April of this year urged a “new economic paradigm based on sustainable happiness and well-being.”
“This conference is a way to begin planning to implement the UN declaration,” adds John de Graaf, director of Take Back Your Time and co-author of a new book, What’s the Economy for, Anyway? Why it’s Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness. “There are those who think of the word “happiness” as something flakey, or a luxury in hard times. But it’s really central to our identity as a country. Thomas Jefferson was the first to use the language ‘pursuit of happiness’ and he declared that happiness ought to be the first goal of government. In those days it was pretty hard to measure happiness. But now we have a whole science of happiness and well-being that can tell us how well we are doing in meeting Jefferson’s goal. We’ll be explaining how it works at the conference.”
Strategic conversations at the conference will include: Spreading the Happiness Initiative (www.happycounts.org) in other communities and on campuses; Planning for Pursuit of Happiness Day 2013 (Jefferson’s birthday, April 13th); Developing better surveys and metrics to measure well-being; Partnering with other organizations, and more. A training for 20 community Happiness Initiative leaders will precede the conference.
The conference will allow opportunity for members of the media to interview some of the key names in the US happiness movement. Media passes will be provided. Please RSVP to John de Graaf [email protected] if you wish a media pass.
Conference registration information can be found at: www.timeday.org/happiness2012. Tickets may be purchased at the door, and the keynote address will be open to the general public without charge, based on seating availability, thanks to support from Humanities Washington.
“We’re proud that this conference is being held in Seattle, one of America’s happiest and most innovative cities,” says Cecile Andrews, a member of the conference organizing team. “It’s another chance for Seattle to show its leadership.”