n the teeth of violence, crime and moral decay, a grassroots campaign with headquarters in Los Angeles is spreading, offering fresh hope for social ills across the nation. Thousands have found a way to battle community problems through promotion of moral standards on a local level. Their tool is The Way to Happiness.
Its 21 precepts set forth practical principles which, when applied, improve morals in today’s world. Precepts such as “Be Competent,” “Do Not Take Harmful Drugs,” “Do Not Murder,” “Do Not Harm a Person of Good Will” and “Set a Good Example” are explained in simple text that can be used to teach anyone what is expected from their family, friends and society.
Since its initial publication, more than 52 million copies of the booklet have been distributed in 50 countries and 22 languages, including Hungarian, Russian, Zulu and even Croatian, often with dramatic results.
The Way to Happiness Foundation, a charitable organization with offices in Hollywood, raises funds to support publication and distribution of the booklet and its use in social betterment programs. As part of this effort, it created the Making America Safe essay contest, a nationwide competition to encourage teachers and students to go beyond talking about moral values. Students devise ways to improve society through utilization of precepts from The Way to Happiness.
The contest includes categories for different age groups and has awarded more than 1,000 national prizes to date. Youth from Scout, social and church groups, as well as probation services, are among those participating.
The contest has been embraced by teachers and school administrators across the country because it elevates moral standards. From 29,800 students in 543 schools in 1994, participants grew to more than 123,970 schoolchildren and 2,254 schools in 1995. In Chicago, 200 schools took part and 14,500 essays were submitted. In Houston, 132 schools entered the contest, with 12,000 essays from their students.
In 1996, as interest in the program grew, a record number of essays were submitted. And there were 48 national winners from the Los Angeles area – out of a total of 600 winners nationwide – in that year’s competitions. These included Melissa Bender of Torrance High School, a grand prize winner. (See “It’s In Your Hands”.)
A Way to Happiness Foundation spokesman, Glenn Horton, who has worked with the organization for more than eight years, told Freedom, “The enormous response received at our headquarters told us immediately that the idea of providing the youth of America with a voice in the discussion of difficulties facing today’s society was striking a very deep chord among educators. Many of those who enrolled their classes and schools in the nationwide essay competition told us that kids do not shy away from today’s bigger social problems but relish the opportunity to have their say and make a contribution.”
Horton produced volumes of letters and testimonials from teachers in participating schools who have written to express their appreciation for The Way to Happiness and the contest.
The English Department chairman of a middle school in Texas, for example, wrote: “I am continually looking for opportunities with which to motivate my students. I am very pleased to state that your essay contest brought out the best in my students who enthusiastically sought to express their ideas on how to create a better world.
“I received numerous positive comments from parents and other members of our community who became aware of the contest through the enthusiasm displayed by the students. On one occasion, I even had a parent bring the content of the essay to the attention of one of our school board members who shared his thoughts with my school’s principal.
“Simply put, I have engaged my students in numerous writing contests; however, none has generated as much enthusiasm as yours has. Not only have their writing skills improved because of their enthusiasm for the contest, their concept of what is right and good for one another has also been enhanced. Overall, they have become a more mature group of students who now display a greater degree of respect for themselves and others.”
Contest judges – business leaders, police officers, attorneys, bankers and educators – are pleasantly surprised by the depth and maturity of the essays received.
One of them, Captain Michael Chambers of the LAPD Wilshire Division, stated, “It is always interesting to read about what kids believe in. The simple insight you get from their words comes from honest beliefs and values. They are truthful and always write what is in their heart.
“You need to read carefully because you never know what you may learn.”
In addition to institutionally sponsored programs, community- based Way to Happiness chapters operate to improve conditions.
Mike Hoy, a chapter coordinator dedicated to reducing crime in the Pico Union area, reported that his community has improved as a result of distribution of the booklets, and that crime statistics, infamous for being high, have lessened considerably since distribution of the booklets began.
“Last week a gang member came to me on the street and asked for help in getting a job and changing his life,” Hoy said. “He had seen me doing clean-ups and distributing The Way to Happiness for a while and he thought I could help him get off the street.
“I gave him a copy of the booklet and the next day he came back – ‘I liked that book, man!’ He took a dozen more for his friends and I took him for a job – he’s very proud that after several years as a gang-banger he’s getting his life together and straightening out.”
“Similar examples occur every day as a result of groups and volunteers getting copies of The Way to Happiness distributed in their community,” said Glenn Horton. “Strong support for this program could create a complete resurgence of morals and make our society much more livable.”
For more information about The Way to Happiness, contact:
The Way to Happiness Foundation,
7060 Hollywood Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90028.
Telephone: (323) 962-7906 or