The Pursuit of Happiness

A video exploration of the Declaration of Independence’s most ambiguous "self-evident truth" through portraits of six people whose paths intersect at a maximum security prison in Pittsburgh, PA. Molly Rush is a mother of six and a member of the Plowshares Eight who faces jail for damaging nuclear missiles at a GE plant. Rush doesn’t "pursue happiness," but finds meaning in acting against the threat of total annihilation. Her husband, Bill, an engineer and family man struggles to understand her apocalyptic fears and worries about their children. Molly visits a fellow activist in jail, Warden George Petsock, who opposes breaking the law for any reason. At home, Petsock dreams of retiring and purchasing a mobile home. His wife Ida May ponders the happiness she sacrificed in thirty years of supporting George’s career. Finally, two "lifers," Ron Grimm, a Vietnam veteran, and Walter Henderson, an African American who works in the prison garden, contemplate the paradox of pursuing happiness while incarcerated and if that right was really meant for everybody.

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01:23Copy video clip URL Video begins. List of sponsors: The National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Rockefeller Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The New York State Council on the Arts.

1:39Copy video clip URL Footage of Pittsburgh freeway, cityscape. Local radio on the soundtrack.

1:48Copy video clip URL Title and credits begin. “It’s a beautiful day here in Iron City.”

2:17Copy video clip URL Adult male softball game. Umpire Bill Rush, a white, middle-aged man with graying hair and a bushy mustache: “I always thought I was in pursuit of happiness but I got too involved in softball and let it take over and I think that’s where some of the differences grew up.” 

2:32Copy video clip URL Protestors marching and singing “Give peace a chance.” Molly Rush, white woman with curly brown hair, roughly 30s or early 40’s is arrested: “Who’s gonna get hurt when the bomb falls?”

2:52Copy video clip URL Prison superintendent George Petsock, a bald white man, in his 50s or 60s, larger build, speaking on walkie-talkie, speaks about achieving career goals and being “stuck at this position.” His wife Ida May, curly graying hair, 50s or 60s, says that George’s promotions were not what they expected.

3:21Copy video clip URL Incarcerated white male Ron Grimm, roughly 40. Mustache. “I’d give the rest of my life just to live a good year of what the normal American person lives.”

3:38Copy video clip URL Walter Henderson, black male roughly 50s, tending a prison garden. “I don’t believe that the pursuit of happiness… was meant for everybody.”

3:54Copy video clip URL Quote from The Declaration of Independence onscreen: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed… with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.”

4:07Copy video clip URL Ida May and George Petsock. Onscreen text: “Ida May and George recently moved here from Harrisburg.” Ida May playing piano while George reads the paper. “George has put off retirement in order to take over as superintendent of Pittsburgh’s state prison.” Discussing possible purchase of a motorhome, feeling locked in at work.

7:50Copy video clip URL Molly and Bill Rush, “The Plowshares 8, a group of Catholic peace activists, have been found guilty of entering a General Electric plant and damaging two nuclear nose cones. One of them, Molly Rush, is the mother of six children. Sentenced to 2-5 years, she was taken directly to jail.” Protestors singing “Rejoice in the Lord Always” while walking through crowd after sentencing hearing, being shoved by police officers as they walk past.

8:32Copy video clip URL The Rush home, “After Molly served 11 weeks, her husband Bill raised bail and she was released. Her children and grandchild welcomed her home.” Discussing her activism and centrality of her faith.

9:44Copy video clip URL Pittsburgh state prison, Ron Grimm. “Five years ago, Ron took part in a robbery in which a murder was committed. Although his accomplice pulled the trigger, Ron was judged equally guilty and was given a life sentence. Ron is president of an inmate group, the Lifers’ Association.” Meets his girlfriend Terri Cecchini and discusses his prospects for commutation.

12:35Copy video clip URL Bill and Molly eating breakfast, jokingly discussing running for senate.

13:26Copy video clip URL Molly visits Plowshares co-defendent John Schuchardt in the Western State Penitentiary. George Petsock enters and discusses when he would consider it just and right to break the law. 

15:52Copy video clip URL George and Ida May reflect on the nature of happiness.

17:30Copy video clip URL George at a Lifer’s Association Meeting with Ron and Walter, who discuss the desperate need for the possibility of commutation for those with life sentences and the disastrous effects of Gov. Dick Thornburgh’s harsh policies. 

18:32Copy video clip URL Interview with Walter and Ron, discussing the impossibility of pursuing happiness in prison, the difficulties of not being a burden on society after being freed from prison.

19:18Copy video clip URL George and Ida May at home.

21:18Copy video clip URL Inside the prison. Michael Travaglia, sentenced to death, meets with Ron to discuss his options.

22:56Copy video clip URL Molly and John reflect on the meaning of life. Molly: “It seems that happiness is something that takes you by surprise,” that you can’t pursue it.

24:17Copy video clip URL Onscreen text: “…whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive in these ends, it is the right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…on…principles…most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…” [sic]

24:29Copy video clip URL Protesters, including Molly and John, singing hymns outside of Rockwell International building. “Molly and John Schuchardt (out on bail) joined others in singing a litany at a Rockwell International shareholders’ meeting. They were arrested, found guilty of a misdemeanor and sentenced to a $100 fine or 30 days in jail.”

25:19Copy video clip URL Molly and Bill and John with family, discussing her arrest.

26:40Copy video clip URL Inside the courtroom with magistrate Alan Penkower. “Portions of this scene have been recreated.” Filmed from outside of the room through window in the door. Judge commutes sentences to time served.

28:56Copy video clip URL Rick Harris, middle-aged white man, plays cards with Ron in their cell. Ron talks about meeting Terri and the possibilities of marriage.

31:02Copy video clip URL Ida May discussing how everything “went haywire” because of George’s job, constant moving and stress.

32:46Copy video clip URL Walter tending his garden. Talking about his life after his first stint in prison, getting degree and a job but getting fired because of his past.

34:09Copy video clip URL Softball game, with Bill serving as umpire. Talking with camera about his wife’s activism and his own interest in softball.

35:22Copy video clip URL Forum on “How to Survive a Nuclear War” at Keystone Oaks High School with Molly. Survivor of Hiroshima Hajimi Kido talks about the devastation caused by the bombing.

37:00Copy video clip URL Ida May and George at home discussing George’s hard day and what he’s wanted out of life and what he wants to do with the rest of it.

38:59Copy video clip URL Molly feeding her baby at home, talking about why she got married when she did.

39:45Copy video clip URL Bill talking about what he wants from his marriage and his family in the future.

40:57Copy video clip URL Molly discussing her feeling of responsibility and obligation to protest and stop nuclear proliferation.

41:44Copy video clip URL Ron in the prison cafeteria. Talks about serving in Vietnam and the difficulty of re-integrating, his failure to stop his accomplice from killing someone.

42:55Copy video clip URL Ida May discusses article she’s written on “The Secret to Saying I’m Sorry.”

44:07Copy video clip URL George speaking about his admiration for his wife, who had a job for much of their marriage. Doesn’t want to place demands on her for who she should be or whether she should stay in the home.

45:08Copy video clip URL Walter in the garden. He doesn’t believe that the pursuit of happiness is for everyone, equates poverty with slavery.

46:39Copy video clip URL George discusses the difficulties of an incarcerated life. But reiterates his support for prisons and his optimism in America.

47:30Copy video clip URL Onscreen text: “… We therefore do declare that these United Colonies are FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES … We mutually pledge..,our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred Honor…”

47:40Copy video clip URL Ron and Walter meeting with George, discussing need for commutations to give the incarcerated men hope.

48:58Copy video clip URL Ida May and George in their motorhome, take a trip to a lake. Discussing the future.

52:07Copy video clip URL Ron with Terri looking at pictures of her cat, talking about their future.

53:26Copy video clip URL Molly and Bill in their car discussing his disapproval of her continued arrests for civil disobedience.

56:26Copy video clip URL “Bread Not Bombs” protest, singing “Give Peace a Chance.” Molly and fellow protesters sitting down in front of building while Bill looks on from the side. Police dragging off Molly and other protesters.

57:36Copy video clip URL Walter and Ron working in the yard. Walter: “That’s the way it goes.”

58:24Copy video clip URL End credits begin.



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