Today, March 4, 1791, Vermont became the 14th state. It seems appropriate to write about a piece of legislation I hope will pass this year. One of my state Senators, Jeannette White, wrote a column about it last week in the Brattleboro Reformer.
Vermont, like most states, has the state tree (sugar maple), bird (hermit thrush), and motto “Freedom and Unity”, but unlike many other states, has no motto in Latin. I’ll let Senator White explain
…[the] Senate Government Operations Committee, which I chair, has broad enough authority that it can address many of these [smaller] issues. One of them was a proposal to adopt a state Latin motto. This began last session when an 8th-grade Latin student, Angela Kubicke, discovered we are one of a few states that do not have one. It was late in the session and there simply wasn’t time to take it up. So the Government Operations Committee gave her some advice and suggested she come back at the beginning of this session. She did her homework and it paid off. She organized Latin students around the state, developed a motto that made sense for Vermont, got a bill sponsor, brought it to us and on Feb. 11 our Committee heard the testimony before a room full of about 70 Latin students from around the state, their teachers, three classics professors from UVM [University of Vermont], and other interested people.
I love the fact that the young woman didn’t get discourage and give up. Instead she organized.
The motto is Stella quarta decima fulgeat — May the 14th star shine brightly. The number 14 has some significance in Vermont: there are 14 counties and we were an independent republic for 14 years. But even more important was that, during those 14 years as a republic, Vermonters worked very hard to become the 14th state — the 14th star on the flag. And during those years as a republic, there was a mint in Ruppert that minted Vermont coins. On the back was this motto.
At least twenty other states have Latin mottos and the proposed “Stella quarta decima fulgeat” would not replace “Freedom and Unity”. So what happened when word got out that an additional Latin motto was being considered by the Vermont legislature?
WCAX did a small story about it that immediately riled bloggers. The comments ranged from “Stop wasting time on this” to “Latin motto? They should learn to read English” to “If we have a Latin motto it will open the flood gates for illegal aliens coming over the Mexican border (in case this is lost on anyone — apparently many Vermonters feel that Latinos speak Latin)” to “Send Joe Benning (sponsor of the bill) and Obama back to Mexico.”
I have to say, however that all the comments I saw on the WCAX page were not negative and I think several comments were posted by some college students – who do do not go to school in Vermont – as an attempt at humor. But some, like the ones quoted by Senator White, were just nasty and ignorant.
This being my first Vermont legislative session I hope I have this right. We are having town meeting week and the legislature is not meeting. But Angela Kubicke’s bill is going to the House when they reconvene. Hope it passes. Stella quarta decima fulgeat.