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Campus News

October 25th, 2022

Present times challenging for pursuit of happiness

LaFemina: Pursuit of happiness at the heart of ‘American experiment'

The pursuit of happiness is quite a challenge in present-day America, according to Frostburg State University English Professor Gerry LaFemina.

"We live in a strange time in this country. It's a time when we're asked to be angry at our neighbors," said LaFemina, the guest presenter at last Wednesday night's Joan Crawford Lecture Series event at Garrett College. "And there are a lot of aspects of mainstream media that perpetuate that rage."

LaFemina – whose latest book, The Pursuit, is an extended meditation on happiness – noted the concept of happiness was important to the United States' early leaders.

"The Constitution and the right to pursue happiness is about the very nature... of the American experiment. If all of us are pursuing our happiness, we're all in a better space," said LaFemina, who indicated America's early leaders would find today's political environment unsettling.

"The founding fathers understood that community is important," said LaFemina. "This is why isolation is so miserable. Self-isolation can . . . feel like the boat's going down."

LaFemina emphasized that that pursuit of happiness can be about the journey as much as the destination.

"Like all pursuits, part of the joy should be in the activity," said LaFemina. "The thrill of the hunt has nothing to do with the result – that's something Elmer Fudd never understood... If you're focused on what you're doing, and not the outcome, you may be happier."

LaFemina also suggested that focusing on others' pursuit of happiness can prevent people from achieving their own.

"We get caught up sometimes judging how other people find their happiness rather than in how we find our own joy," said LaFemina. "It distracts us from our own path to see someone on theirs."

The Joan Crawford Lecture Series was created by the Garrett College faculty to honor a dynamic educator who spent more than three decades at the College. Crawford, who died in 2010, came to Garrett College in 1972 and served in a variety of capacities, including head of the Humanities Department. After her retirement, Crawford was named Professor Emerita.

JCLS presentations are offered free of charge, and the public and community members are invited to attend. All presentations from the Joan Crawford Lecture Series will be available to view online through the College's Facebook page. Lectures are live streamed and recordings are posted shortly after the event.

For more information, contact Jenny Meslener at or 301-387-3022.