Friday, November 20, 2009

School Paper: Assessing Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

The following is a short paper I wrote recently for a humanities class. The topic was about defining happiness and the theme of “the American Dream”. Had to wait until it was graded so the plagiarism checkers wouldn’t think I was stealing from myself. :-)

Assessing “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”

Figure 1 - From the Declaration of Independence (Wikipedia)

The Declaration of Independence, the cornerstone founding document of the United States of America, contains the oft-quoted phrase:

“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.” (Jefferson 1776, ¶2)

More than two centuries have passed since those eloquent words were penned, but modern immigrant Americans continue to embody the spirit and power behind these words. As an American by birth, I love my country and having spent many years living abroad, I recognize the advantages, and, in some ways, the superiority, of it compared to other systems. Yet I don’t know what it means to have chosen this country. The immigrants who continue to come to the US by the millions have chosen this country to be their own. Sometimes that means they are only here to work and take advantage of the economic climate and upward mobility. Even in troubled economic times, there are no limitations on the ability of a person to work their way from one “class” to another within our system. This stands in stark contrast to some other cultures. For example, the formal caste system of India holds down millions from reaching their potential without regard to how capable they may be. Truly, this genuine opportunity, reflected by the numbers of people who continue to “vote with their feet,” is one of the enduring achievements of the American experiment.

Examining the visible artifacts of the pursuit of happiness of the modern immigrant population, one finds that, in a 1996 analysis by the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (Peters 1996) immigrants were the sole inventor or a collaborator on more than 26% of the patents issued between 1988 and 1994. This is all the more impressive when one considers that first generation immigrants represent less than 9% of the US population in this period. Among the inventions identified in this study are:

· A simple process for diagnosis of kidney disease invented by an Italian immigrant.

· In-home vital sign monitoring equipment invented by a Polish immigrant.

· An electrical generator cooling system invented by an Indian immigrant.

· Aeronautical controls for the space shuttle invented by a Norwegian immigrant.

These more recent contributions in science and engineering join the long list of contributions by immigrants through the history of the United States and crossing the spectrum of fields of endeavor. To name just a few, Albert Einstein - physics, John Muir – environmental awareness, Joseph Pulitzer - publishing, Charles Simonyi - software and Madeline Albright - politics (Immigration Update).

The enduring contributions of American immigrants, both recent and historic, are clearly manifest and yet too numerous to count.

There is, rightfully, much debate about legal versus illegal immigration. It is not the purpose of this paper to enter into that debate on one side or the other. Regardless of the legal status of a particular immigrant, it stands to reason quite clearly that every immigrant coming to the United States is making the de facto assertion that this country best meets at least their immediate needs in enabling their own pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That may mean they are seeking economic opportunity that social, economic, or political structures in their homeland would deny them. This can be the case even in ostensibly “free” countries – as was the case for Ian Crawford. Mr. Crawford was a native of Scotland by was “dissatisfied with the opportunities” there (Peters 1996). In other cases, their priority may be to escape oppression, such was the case for Mitchell Budniak (Peters 1996), a native Pole whose parents were escaping forced servitude in Nazi Germany during World War II. Today, you see the same familiar echoes among new immigrants arriving from China, Central America, and tumultuous African nations. They risk all for a chance to come to America, work unbelievably hard and sometimes in virtual slavery to human smugglers. And still they come just for the chance to someday control their own destiny and provide a better life for their children and their children’s children. Indeed, the American dream lives on and with it the ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

It is perhaps worthy of note that the Declaration calls out life and liberty as rights, but not happiness. It is as if the founders are telling us that while a free republic can guarantee life and liberty, the best it can do for happiness is to guarantee our freedom to pursue it; to chase that which we each define as endowing our own lives with joy.


Immigration Update (n.d.). Famous American immigrants. Retrieved November 8, 2009 from

Jefferson, T. (1776 June). Declaration of Independence. Retrieved November 8, 2009 from

Peters, P. (1996 March 6). Invented in the USA: Immigrants, Patents, and Jobs. Alexis de Tocqueville Institution. Retrieved November 8, 2009 from

Wikipedia (2009 September 24). Thumbnail excerpt from The Declaration of Independence. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 8, 2009 from

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Levi Johnston…your 15 minutes are up!

I saw a headline on where Levi Johnson, Bristol Palin’s baby-daddy, said in his Playgirl interview that Sarah Palin is “full of it.”

leviLevi Johnston: Proof you can
pile crap more than 6 feet high! 

Sorry, but is it such a slow news day that the continued ranting of a two-bit loser from the frozen north are used to defame or at least detract from a grown-up? Let’s lay aside for a moment that Sarah Palin has been elected to numerous state and local political offices and is basically the only reason anyone at all voted for John McCain in 2008. And let’s lay aside the fact that high-school drop-out Mr. Johnston’s sole claim to fame is that he managed to slip one past the goalie when he wasn’t actually playing hockey.

So a proven A*%@&~ whose strongpoint is clearly thinking only of himself and for whom disrespecting women seems to be a hobby, resorts to his only possible career path – posing nude – which should probably be viewed as yet more abuse of women, with a criminal defense attorney acting as his agent. Well, that’s his second career, of course. His first was knocking up the governor’s daughter and then splitting – not sure if you need a special tag for that in Alaska or if just anyone can do it from a helicopter.

My daughter just mentioned that she saw that Levi was on the same talk show as Jon Gosselen where they were asked which did they think was the better father.
My mom says, “People judge you by the company you keep.”  
She’s pretty smart. Jon Gosselen should stay away from Levi so people won’t think ill of him…Jon that is.

This just in…Jon says Barak Obama is “full of it!” There. Hey MSN, when do I get my headline?

…13…14…15 <DING>
Time’s Up, Levi. Back to the tundra for you!

P.S. Weight loss update: I’m at 185. That’s a loss of 65 pounds since May 28th.