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Best-selling Author to Speak at Values Day about the Search for Happiness

Eric Weiner traveled to Iceland – one of the happiest places on Earth – for his best-selling book, “The Geography of Bliss,” and learned something he likes to share with college students.

Eric Weiner

Weiner talks to students around the country and is “always amazed” at how worried they are about their job prospects and what they’ll do with their lives, even in their first year of college.

“I would really hope that more students are able to remain noncommittal in a way to what their future is,” said Weiner, the keynote speaker for Values Day on Sept. 25. “You need to have a phase of your life where you’re exploring, and where you’re not pegged down to one channel, one slot in life.

“As you’ll discover when you get to the Iceland chapter in my book, there are places in the world where you don’t need to be pegged down to one career. You can have five different careers in your lifetime and nobody will find that odd. And I think that’s very liberating,” he said by phone from his home in the Washington, D.C., area.

“The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World” was selected for this year’s Stetson R.E.A.D. on Values Day. Hundreds of copies of the book already have been distributed to students, faculty and staff on campus.

Weiner, a former reporter for The New York Times and foreign correspondent for NPR, will speak in Lee Chapel inside Elizabeth Hall at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 25. The university cancels classes and closes offices for Values Day, allowing the Stetson community to reflect and take action on its core values of personal growth, intellectual development and global citizenship.

After the talk, participants can discuss the book and ask Weiner questions at 12:30 p.m. during the Stetson R.E.A.D., a program founded and developed by Rajni Shankar-Brown, Ph.D., associate professor and Jessie Ball duPont Chair of Social Justice Education. Space is limited, so please RSVP. Weiner also will be available at a Book Signing from 1:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Lynn Presentation Room of the Rinker Welcome Center.

From noon to 2 p.m., a Global Citizenship Fair will take place in Palm Court while, inside the Commons, Stetson Dining will provide a complimentary Community Lunch.

Then, beginning at 2 p.m., 26 workshops are scheduled across campus, exploring themes of Building Community, Tools and Techniques for Dialogue, Contemplative Practices and Storytelling.

Later that night, Values Day will conclude with a showing of the Marvel Studios’ “Black Panther” movie at 8:30 p.m. in the Stetson Room in the CUB.

Cultural Credit is available for students who attend many of these events. Check the schedule of events for details.

Savannah-Jane Griffin

Savannah-Jane Griffin

This year’s event focuses on a theme of “Building Community; Reflecting on our Values,” which grew out of a campus survey, a workshop and other meetings with students, faculty and staff last spring, said Values Day Coordinator Savannah-Jane Griffin ’07.

“The overwhelming response was: What can we do that unifies our campus?” said Griffin, executive director of Community Engagement and Inclusive Excellence. “Unity was a word that was used a lot, so ‘Building Community; Reflecting on our Values’ is what came out of that.”

Organizers sought recommendations for a featured book and selected “The Geography of Bliss” because it embodies global citizenship, said Lindsey Carelli, chair of the Values Day Speaker and Stetson R.E.A.D. Committee.

Lindsey Carelli

“This is a person who is traveling the world — he has a specific purpose to explore the concept of happiness and find some of the happiest places in the world and what they entail. But it’s really about drawing knowledge and drawing on the experiences of people all around the world,” said Carelli, assistant director of Interfaith Initiatives. “We think that aligns with our value of global citizenship.”

In the end, after traveling from the Netherlands to India and back home to America, Weiner realizes he may have been searching for the wrong thing.

“A Spoiler Alert,” he warned on the phone, “is that I conclude my search for happiness with a suggestion that perhaps I was looking for not exactly the right thing, not happiness, per se, not a happy life, per se, but a meaningful life. There’s a lot of overlap between a happy life and a meaningful one.”

Weiner said he plans to delve more into that topic during his speech and noted that he has visited Stetson once or twice through the years.

Eric Weiner sits with a cap on and glasses in an outdoor cafe.

Aside from his keynote address and other activities at Stetson University, Eric Weiner says of his visit: “I’ll be catching up with my father and I’ll be walking around beautiful downtown DeLand.”

His father, Dr. Sy Weiner, lives in DeLand and established the Bernard Weiner Holocaust Memorial Lecture Series at Stetson. The series honored the life and work of Sy Weiner’s late brother, Bernard Weiner, who was a leader in the development of Holocaust curricula for New York state schools and a founder of the Rockland Center for Holocaust Studies, now the Holocaust Museum and Study Center, in Spring Valley, N.Y.

“When I saw the invitation to speak, I was like, wow, Stetson, DeLand. I know that place,” Eric Weiner said. “This is a happy coincidence, or maybe it’s not a coincidence, maybe it’s fate bringing us together.”

-Cory Lancaster

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