Happy All The Time: Former Peace Corps Director Gearan at HWS College

The June 25 issue of the Recorder CommunityNewspaper in upstate New York has an article on ‘happiness’ today written by Liz Parker. Parker writes about the address that the new graduates of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York received for their president, former Peace Corps Director (1995-99), Mark Gearan.

Mark told the students about a book he had read, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World. The book was written by NPR correspondent Eric Weiner. (Weiner, by the way, will have an article out shortly in The New York Times Magazine about where the Peace Corps is today.)

Gearan quoted from the book:

“Recent research into happiness or subjective well-being reveals that money does indeed buy happiness. Up to a point. That point, though, is surprisingly low: about $15,000 a year. After that, the link between economic growth and happiness evaporates. Americans are on average three times wealthier than we were half a century ago, yet we are no happier. The same is true of Japan and many other industrialized nations.”

Gearan asked his graduates on their Commencement Day:  what will be your happiness index? How will you measure it? What are the metrics you will employ to determine your well-being?” Then he went on to say, “You already know how you will measure other indices of your life: net worth, assets, liabilities, degrees attained, number of children, number of marriages, number of homes, cars, boats. But when you’re back on the quad for your 25th or 50th reunion, will you be happy? How will you know?

Mark advised the students that a life marked by service to others is, statistically and anecdotally, a happy one and summed up with, “I hope your happiness index takes from Henry David Thoreau’s guidance: ‘Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined’.”

Go Mark!

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  • I worked with Mark Gearan for four years and thought he was great at his job. However, I wish he had mentioned the Peace Corps specifically and all the life changes which that particular experience can bring. Maybe that’s why we want returned PCVs to direct the agency so that when they go on to more important jobs, they take the changes with them and can speak about them with eloquence, thus inspiring more people to join the ranks.

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