(Note: See also this follow-up post on the motto’s approval by a Senate committee.)
Of all the stuff I’ve written about Vermont politics and policy on this blog and earlier on Green Mountain Daily, the single-most-read piece I’ve ever posted was last week’s post about the proposed addition of a Latin state motto. So I thought I’d add some historical information for those still skeptical about the idea.
For those just joining us, Sen. Joe Benning has sponsored a bill designating a new Latin motto — not to displace “Freedom and Unity,” but to exist side-by-side. He did so at the behest of Angela Kubicke,
a ninth-grade student at The Riverside School in Lyndonville*, who is apparently way smarter than I was in the ninth grade. Or certainly more dedicated and focused.
*Correction: Kubicke was an eighth-grader at Riverside when she first approached Sen. Benning; she is now a first-year student at St. Johnsbury Academy, and is also a member of the Latin Club at the Lyndon Institute. Credit where credit’s due.
The motto, Stella Quarta Decima Fulgeat, is translated as “May the Fourteenth Star Shine Bright.” It’s a nod to Vermont’s status as the 14th state to join the Union — hence, the 14th star on the flag. My original post had to do with ignorant Facebook commenters who confused Latin with Latin America — basically telling Joe and Angela to take their motto and go back to Mexico.
There were also plenty of comments accusing the Senator of wasting time on such nonsense — when, in fact, bills like this take up very little of anyone’s time. In the opening weeks of the session, most of the work takes place in committees; and while other committees are debating taxes, budget, education, environment, etc., one single committee will spend probably a few minutes on this issue. The entire Senate does not grind to a halt over stuff like this.
There was also a third class of ignorant comments, saying we should stick with our heritage and not drag in some newfangled foreign motto.
But in fact, Stella Quarta Decima Fulgeat is a direct tribute to Vermont’s early status as an independent republic. During that time, it was pretty clear that Vermont would eventually join the United States, and the monicker “14th Star” was commonly used. In 1786, the government authorized the minting of Vermont coins; the phrase Stella Quarta Decima was included on the “tails” side of Vermont’s first coin.
So the motto is not new at all; it’s a reflection of Vermont’s early history. As is the use of Latin.
The next step in the odyssey of Stella Quarta Decima Fulgeat will take place at 2 pm on Wednesday, February 11, when Angela Kubicke will testify before the Senate Government Operations Committee. “I suspect she will make a very good impression,” said Sen. Benning in a comment to my previous posting. “I am also willing to lay odds that the tripartisan membership of that committee will vote unanimously in support of the bill, if for no other reason than to demonstrate that legislators still care about the Classics and Vermont’s heritage.”
What started out as a small civics lesson for a single student may well become a big lesson in history — and open-mindedness — for all of us.