E Pluribus Unum, out of many, one, or In God We Trust

In July 1776, a committee of our founders including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson was charged with creating a motto and seal for this new country.

After rejecting many possibilities that included references to God and the teachings of the Old Testament. These leaders settled on the idea that the United States of America was truly one country formed from the many states in partnership with a federal government.

Although their original design of the seal was not approved (and two more committees would be appointed), their motto E Pluribus Unum was selected by Charles Thomson in 1782, when he created the final Great Seal whose centerpiece is the American Bald Eagle.

Thomson explained that the motto E pluribus unum alludes to the union between the states and federal government, as symbolized by the shield on the eagle’s breast. The thirteen stripes “represent the several states all joined in one solid compact entire, supporting a Chief, which unites the whole & represents Congress.”

In 1956, during the President Eisenhower administration, our national motto was officially changed from E Pluribus unum to In God We Trust. This was at the height of the Cold War, and the change was made with good intention to signal opposition to the feared secularizing ideology of communism.

 “In God We Trust” links us to our judeo-christian roots, and it is understandable why the change to it was made in 1956. But recognition of the original motto E Pluribus unum may be most pertinent in 2020.

Out of many, one. This was what our country was founded on. A compact of fledgling states working together to form ‘a more perfect union.’ 

Out of many, one. Our founders truly made this a reality as they argued amongst themselves, came together, and fought to escape oppression to create something unique in the world. 

Out of many, one. It seems that many of our citizens and leaders have lost that underlying concept in today’s struggle to continue to make the United States a more perfect union. Yes, we can argue like cats and dogs over how we move forward as a country, but we cannot succeed if we continue to try to squelch voices we do not agree with. Rather, we may learn something by listening to those voices. We may learn that we are closer than we think on the issues, and we may learn that violence against each other only separates us. 

Out of many, one. No good comes from bullying those with political views different from yours.  Ultimately we will make better decisions as a country by  acknowledging opposing perspectives and respectfully disagreeing as we hash out well thought out agreements. Only then will we be able to work together to make meaningful, positive change, as did our founders.