Esse Quam Videri


I have long been captivated by the motto of the state of North Carolina: “Esse quam videri” (“To be, rather than to seem”).

By contrast, some state mottos are so obviously rooted in the past that they run the risk of seeming antiquated. For example, Alabama hearkens back to the Civil War with “Audemus jura nostra defendere” (“We Dare Defend Our Rights”), while my home state of Virginia reaches back even further to the days of the American Revolution with “Sic Semper Tyrannis” (“Thus Always to Tyrants”).

While these mottos may seem dated, at least they are inspirational. Not so with states such as Indiana (“The Crossroads of America”), Tennessee (“Agriculture and Commerce”) and Utah (“Industry”).

And then there’s Michigan: (“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you”). Not to be outdone, New Mexico boasts: “It grows as it goes”. Huh?

Back to North Carolina. More than any of the other 49 states’ mottos, North Carolina’s presents as much of an individual challenge as it does a state rallying cry. To be, rather than to seem. As society bombards us with the artificial, the superficial and the trivial, we would all do well to adopt North Carolina’s motto as our personal watchword. I’m not there yet, but I’m trying.

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