Mayor on Duty

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” is in the preamble of the Declaration of Independence. That great document is the cornerstone of our celebration on Sunday. 

The pursuit of happiness was a radical concept back in 1776. People have the right to pursue being happy? This notion of the pursuit of happiness was an individual freedom that was for everyone. It wasn’t a guarantee, but everyone had, and has the right to pursue, follow and strive for what makes them happy.

As the Declaration of Independence asserts, laws and governments are to make sure one person’s pursuit of happiness doesn’t deny or impinge on another individual to do the same. 

Our personal desires for happiness and fulfillment cannot go against the constitutional protections that the government established following the American revolution. The pursuit of personal happiness becomes a balancing act between the public good and the rights of the individual.

I think this pursuit of happiness vision that Jefferson and the founders included in the Declaration of Independence has been a wellspring for personal creativity, that inspirational spark, that so many have embraced which has made this a great nation.  It’s the cornerstone of “American Knowhow,” and the “Can do” spirit.

With the COVID pandemic we have encountered many days where this pursuit of happiness seemed to be a distant goal, but it was a goal that we all longed to get back to embracing.

I felt this renewed sense of happiness last Sunday when Sallie and I attended the kick off of the 40th Anniversary of the Highlands Cashiers Chamber Music Festival.  It was held at the Bascom Visual Arts Center where the previous paintings for the festival brochures were on display. 

The musicians performed on the patio of the Bascom among Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

The music they played was moving, and I could see the creative glow and joy on the musicians’ faces. They were happy to be back playing live music before an audience.  All around me I felt a sense of joy and happiness.

The creative director of the festival, Will Ransom, set the stage with an inspiring recount of the creation of the chamber music festival. He ended with an enthusiastic description of what we were about to hear.

I sat in the audience taking in the whole ambiance of this wonderful community venue and the commitment folks have had to bring the fine arts to Highlands.

Simply put, moments like this make us happy to be alive. They trigger that creative and aesthetic spark that is within us all.

Happily celebrating the Fourth of July is a national holiday that Highlands embraces. It captures a great spirit. Whether it be in arts, cultural, or spiritual endeavors, or just being immersed in the natural beauty of the plateau, we are here in pursuit of our personal happiness. Happiness permeates throughout the community; it is contagious.

I hope everyone will have a happy and safe Fourth of July. See you at the fireworks.

  • Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor

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