Toni Morrison, pictured above, is a Nobel and Pulitzer winning author.
She recently was given the chance to give a commencement address to a graduating class at a prestigious university. I caught the talk online and was deeply struck by what she shared. Having never read one of her novels (only knowing that she is one of the most influential living writers of our time), I didn't quite know what to expect.
She delivered a powerful call to action for the young people listening.
This excerpt is a must-read:
"I have often wished that Jefferson had not used that phrase “the pursuit of happiness” as the third right — although I understand in the first draft it was “life, liberty and the pursuit of property.” Of course, I would have been one of those properties one had the right to pursue, so I suppose happiness is an ethical improvement over a life devoted to the acquisition of land, acquisition of resources, acquisition of slaves.
Still, I would rather he had written “life, liberty and the pursuit of meaningfulness” or “integrity” or “truth.” I know that happiness has been the real, if covert, goal of your labors here. I know that it informs your choice of companions, the profession you will enter. But I urge you, please don’t settle for happiness. It’s not good enough.
Personal success devoid of meaningfulness, free of a steady commitment to social justice, that’s more than a barren life; it is a trivial one. It’s looking good instead of doing good."
What are you thoughts? We do live in a culture where being "happy" and living for ourselves is often valued over living a meaningful, selfless life devoted to something other than self. What can we do to help shape a different culture? How are you chasing after "doing good" instead of "looking good"? How can we lead people into living lives of meaning?
Don't settle for happiness. It's not good enough.