Residents of Vermont were outspoken in their response to the suggestion of a Republican state senator to introduce a staid Latin phrase as the second motto of the Green Mountain State. State Senator Joe Benning explained in a newspaper column that he had been asked by a Lyndonville VT middle-school student why Vermont does not have a Latin motto as do the rest of the states of the Union. He wrote that the girl, Angela, had proposed re-adopting the Latin phrase “Stella Quarta Decima,” which was the phrase inscribed on Vermont’s first coin before its admission to the Union. The phrase when transalted means, “The Fourteenth Star,” which expressed Vermonters’ desire to become the fourteenth of these United States.
According to Benning, his constituent was not suggesting a replacement for the current English motto. “She was merely trying to place that historical motto on Vermont’s list of official designations,” wrote Benning, “like our state horse (the Morgan) and the state tree (the sugar maple).” As a history buff, Benning was seeking to instruct Vermonters (especially students) the ins and outs of the legislative process.
However, the unwitting legislator became the subject of the ire of critics who took to social media to express outrage. Some of the posts appear to show an ignorance of Latin and having it confused it for Spanish. When Vermont television station WCAX asked viewers on January 16 what they thought of the proposed motto, the controversy became enflamed.
For example, Ronald Prouty Jr. wrote, “No way this is America not Mexico or Latin America. And they nee (sic) to learn our language, just like if we go there they want us to speak theirs.” Richard Mason wrote, “We are AMERICANS, not latins, why not come up with a Vermont motto that is actually from us.” Dorothy Lyn Lepisto added, “I thought Vermont was American not Latin? Does any Latin places have American mottos?”
Apparently referring to the Republican legislator, Judy Lamoreux wrote “Throw him out of the country tell him to take obama (sic) with him.”
In his comment published on Vtdigger.org, Benning was philosophical: “But I’m happy to say Angela and her parents are handling this tumult as a lesson every child needs to learn in order to succeed in life. These commentators say I’ll pay in the next election. But if I‘ve helped Angela’s generation to understand the legislative process and how to respond to such attacks with grace and fortitude, I will consider that a price worth paying.”
It was not clear from the social media posts whether any of Benning's critics are advocating for eliminating the Latin motto used widely by the United States: E pluribus unum.
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