Explore The Pursuit Of Happiness At Chautauqua Institution For Week Five

CHAUTAUQUA – Lectures this week will explore what happiness is and why it’s one of the inalienable rights to pursue it.

To help answer these questions, on Monday, classicist and former Cornell president Hunter R. Rawlings III will provide his interpretation of the classical roots of happiness, followed by a brief address by young Thomas Jefferson (Colonial Williamsburg’s Bill Barker) that explains his meaning of the concept.

Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, author of “Bowling Alone,” will provide remarks Tuesday about happiness and community in modern American life based on his scholarship on social capital, diversity, religion and democracy.

Charles Murray, author of “Coming Apart” and “The Bell Curve,” will speak specifically to happiness and social class on Wednesday. On Thursday, Yale professor of psychiatry, neurobiology and pharmacology Marina R. Picciotto will address the effect of happiness on our brains, bodies and behavior and address how drugs, abuse and addiction affect the pursuit of happiness and pleasure.

To close the week on Friday, Paula A. Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, will lecture on community as a source of deeper happiness and her role as leader of an institution that attempts to bridge the demographic and political gaps that divide Americans.


This week, practitioners from several of the world’s religions will offer understandings of happiness, representing the wisdom of the ages, which inform their lived traditions and make life worth living.

Hunter R. Rawlings III, president of the Association of the American Universities and former president of Cornell University will kick off the Interfaith Lecture week on Monday. Colonial Williamsburg’s Bill Barker will portray young Thomas Jefferson.

On Tuesday, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Ph.D., an award-winning author, poet, essayist and educator will share his thoughts about the pursuit of happiness. Shapiro is adjunct professor of religion and global studies at Middle Tennessee State University. Author of more than two dozen books on religion and spirituality, Rami also writes a regular column for Spirituality and Health magazine called “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” and blogs at

Vasudha Narayanan, director of the Center for Study of Hindu Traditions and a distinguished Professor in the Department of Religion at the University of Florida will speak Wednesday. She is currently working on Hindu temples and traditions in Cambodia. Narayanan and the University of Florida have created the nation’s first Center for the Study of Hindu Traditions (CHiTra) to encourage the research, teaching and public understanding of Hindu culture and traditions.

Elaine Yuen, Ph.D., a senior teacher and minister (Upadhaya) in the international Shambhala community will deliver the address on Thursday. Professor Yuen is an educator and researcher trained in Clinical Pastoral Education and Buddhist chaplaincy. She has written and lectured widely on meditation, Buddhism, end of life issues and cultural diversity. She has also evaluated health and social needs in under-served communities and studied cognitive and mental health benefits of mindfulness practice.

Author on world’s religion Karen Armstrong will return to Chautauqua on Friday to conclude the Interfaith Lecture week about the pursuit of happiness. Armstrong is contemporary and historical religion’s most prolific author, and is a highly sought-after lecturer around the world, called upon by governments, universities, church and secular organizations alike to educate about the world’s religions and to inform regarding their place in the modern world.

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Morning lectures are held in the Amphitheater weekdays at 10:45 a.m. Interfaith Lectures are held in the Hall of Philosophy weekdays at 2 p.m. Afternoon lecture themes often complement the themes of the 10:45 a.m. lectures but capture a different angle of vision.

Day tickets are available for purchase at the Main Gate Welcome Center Ticket Office on the day of your visit. Morning tickets grant visitors access to the grounds from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $20.

Afternoon tickets grant access from noon-8 p.m. for $13.

Combined morning/afternoon passes (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.) are $33. For additional ticketing information, visit or call 357-6250.