Campus News

View Year

Student from Quito, Ecuador Defines Pursuit of Happiness to Win Bailey

(Posted March 3, 2010)

Vanessa Guerra, an international student from Quito, Ecuador, convinces a panel of judges that happiness is something you give, not receive.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Vanessa Guerra, an international student from Quito, Ecuador, received the first-place award last night in the annual Juniata College Bailey Oratorical Contest by convincing a panel of judges that the pursuit of happiness is "not something we receive but it's something we give."

Guerra, who received $1,000 for her award, and six other contestants were asked to address the topic "In the 21st century, what is the 'pursuit of happiness' and what are the implications of that pursuit?" before three judges and an enthusiastic crowd, Tuesday, March 2 in the Suzanne von Liebig Theatre in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts on the Juniata campus.

Guerra made her point by dispelling three myths about the pursuit of happiness: that success is the key to happiness; that happiness cannot be pursued, only given; and that individual happiness can only be achieved by ensuring that a "collective" contentment must exist among groups of people before individuals can be happy .

"Do we really need (the trappings of success) to be happy?," Guerra argued. "No! The richer and more consumerist societies in the world record more cases of depression, crime, anxiety and suicide. Because happiness is not about consumerism, happiness is about passion."

Sarah Ruggiero, a senior from Bangor, Pa., earned the second-place prize, receiving $500. Grace Canfield, a senior from Littleton, N.H., was awarded the third-place prize, receiving $300.

"To be happy is to feel the beating of your heart. Today, I invite you to work like you don't need the money, to love like you've never been hurt, to sing like no one is listening, to dance like no one is watching and to give until it hurts so at the end of the day, you can smile and say I am happy.'"
Vanessa Guerra, international student, Quito Ecuador

In her first-place speech, Guerra said, "True happiness will come when you look for it for others and give them your love. Happiness is like true love. It is given unconditionally."

She went on to say, "We need to pursue collective happiness before we'll ever find individual happiness. It's necessary to recognize that we are not alone in this world and that we do have a world to which we must respond. That is why I hope you recognize all your capabilities and leave this world in a better condition than you found it. I hope you understand that although we are not responsible for the world into which we were born, we are responsible for the world our children inherit. It's time to change."

Guerra concluded her speech by saying, "To be happy is to feel the beating of your heart. Today, I invite you to work like you don't need the money, to love like you've never been hurt, to sing like no one is listening, to dance like no one is watching and to give until it hurts so at the end of the day, you can smile and say I am happy.'"

The remaining four finalists were: seniors Marci Chamberlain, of Williamsburg, Pa.; Bennett Rea, of Oakmont, Pa.; Anne Staudenmaier of Harrisburg, Pa.; and junior Callandra McCool, of Spring Mills, Pa.

Judges for the event were:

Angela Thompson, of Huntingdon, Pa., is a 1992 graduate of Juniata. She started Thompson's Candle Co., a local scented-candle business that ships its products to gift shops across the country. She started the business out of her home in 1997 and now operates it with her husband.


Jessica Quinter, of Petersburg, Pa., is a 2000 graduate of Juniata. She started her teaching career in 2001 at Juniata Valley Elementary School, where she is now the elementary principal and Federal Programs Coordinator. She completed a master's degree in education at Saint Francis University, where she also earned a Principal Certificate and Reading Specialist Certification. She currently serves as the Juniata Alumni Association president.

Greg Anderson, of Huntingdon, Pa., is co-owner, with his wife Jessie, of Standing Stone Coffee Company. Previously he worked with CCO Campus ministry at Penn State University and Messiah College. He earned a master's degree in higher education at Penn State. At Messiah College, he oversaw national and international service and mission projects.

The original Bailey Oratorical Award was established in 1915 by the Honorable Thomas F. Bailey, who served as president judge of Huntingdon County from 1916 to 1936. The oratorical contest has a long tradition at Juniata College, as students from all areas of study can compete for the monetary prize. In addition, the name of the winner will be permanently inscribed on an antique loving cup.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.