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Crises disrupt lives. They bring hardship and even tragedy. But they can also clarify what is truly important and bring out the best in humanity.

Americans have long enjoyed unprecedented levels of wealth. The astonishing array of goods, services and conveniences available to us has enabled us to solve or at least alleviate problems that previous generations considered intractable. Yet this multitude of blessings can also lead us to expect life to be painless and free from disappointment, tragedy and heartbreak.

Shocks like the pandemic now shaking society remind us of an unalterable truth: life is, indeed, hard. There will never be a time when we have conquered pain, suffering and misfortune once and for all. Ours is an imperfect world: bad things will inevitably happen.

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Some may believe we have a right to be happy. But as our Declaration of Independence observes, “unalienable” human rights include only “the pursuit of Happiness,” not happiness itself.

There can be no guarantee we will attain happiness. It is not a gift that can be bestowed upon us, and no one can owe it to us as a right. On the contrary, happiness is an achievement. It takes hard work to achieve, and even with hard work it remains uncertain and even elusive.

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