Seattle University hosts national happiness conference

What organizers are calling the first comprehensive conference on national happiness will be held Friday and Saturday at Seattle University.

The event brings together more than 150 professionals and activists from as far away as South Africa, and from more than a dozen U.S. states for discussions that range from economic and policy decisions affecting happiness to personal change.

Organizers see this as a way to begin to implement the United Nations’ call to refocus national policies on happiness, they said in a press release.

They said that in July of 2011, a 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.”

Topics at the conference include Spreading the Happiness Initiative ( in other communities and on campuses; planning for Pursuit of Happiness Day 2013 (former President Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13); and developing better surveys and metrics to measure well-being.

The keynote speaker  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 speakers include Vicki Robin, author of 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; ecological economist Robert Costanza; Laura Musikanski, director of the Happiness Initiative; and psychologist Ryan Howell, creator of the Happiness Initiative national survey.

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, said “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.”

Conference sponsors include The Happiness Initiative, Take Back Your Time, the Compassion Action Network, Sustainable Seattle, and the communications department of Seattle University.

Registration is at   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. A conference program is at







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One Response to Seattle University hosts national happiness conference

  1. thanks for this piece Lisa. there is only one tiny error. Friday’s event are in Campion Ballroom but all of Saturday’s events are in Pigott Hall. don’t know if you can change that.

    John de Graaf
    Conference director

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