After Confusion and Controversy, Vermont Gets New Latin Motto

Vermont has a new, secondary state motto, after authorization Friday from Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat. The Latin phrase "Stella quarta decima fulgeat," or "May the fourteenth star shine bright," became the state’s official Latin motto.

"The fourteenth star" refers to the fact Vermont was the fourteenth state to join the Union, in 1791.

"Freedom and Unity," which is on the state seal, remains as Vermont’s official motto. The new Latin motto joins a list of recognized "Vermont symbols," including the state bird, state flower, and state tree.

If you’re curious, those are the hermit thrush, red clover, and sugar maple, according to the Vermont Secretary of State.

The idea for the Latin motto came from Angela Kubicke, 15, a freshman at Lyndon Institute. She studies Latin, and told New England Cable News she enjoys learning about the Romans, mythology, and ancient ruins.

However, the year Angela has had on the internet would make Julius Caesar roll over in his grave. "I was surprised quite a bit," she said. "People get confused."

It turns out many people apparently thought Angela and one of her family’s elected officials, Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia County, were talking about crafting an official Vermont motto for Latinos, not a motto in Latin.

So many were up in arms over this, and took to social media to vent their outrage, that the subject got national attention on sites like Gawker. Gawker collected some comments gathered from the Facebook pages of Vermont news outlets.

"We are thousands of miles from a Latino border? and this makes sense WHY? NO we should not," one news site’s reader wrote on the outlet’s Facebook page.

"How do you say idiotic senator in spanish [sic]?" another Facebook user asked.

And another comment read, "ABSOLUTLY [sic] NOT!!!! sick and tired of that crap, they have their own countries."

"My hope, in the end, is that we rise above that level of—I’m going to call it ignorance and bigotry, because that's what it really is—and we remember we are a place of civic engagement," Sen. Benning said.

Benning indicated the online dustup actually made him more motivated to push the Latin motto idea through the Vermont State Legislature. Incidentally, the Roman goddess of agriculture, Ceres, stands atop the dome of the Vermont Statehouse.

Gov. Shumlin said "Veni, vidi, signati," for "I came, I saw, I signed," as he signed the Latin motto into law. The signing came at "Latin Day" at the University of Vermont, which welcomed high school students and teachers of Latin from all over the state.

After the signing, Shumlin told necn he hopes the now-notorious online comments, which did get nasty at times regarding immigration issues, serves as a reminder to his state.

"We still have more work to do in terms of being inclusive, accepting folks who are different, and also, ensuring everyone is equally treated in this state," Shumlin said.

Angela Kubicke said she is proud that the new Latin motto represents support for learning about the ancient world. "I do think it's a really good learning experience," Kubicke said, smiling. 

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