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E pluribus unum

In leadership on March 2, 2014 at 10:08 pm

E pluribus unum, Latin for “Out of many, one.”

Just a few days ago, I marveled at the four columns of granite pictured below. To me these architectural supports symbolically represent how all Americans have worked together to support the nation. You’ll find these columns at City Hall under the grand tower of Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.”

Nearly 100 years ago, former President Theodore Roosevelt was addressing a largely Irish Catholic crowd when he admonished:

“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all … The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic … There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else.”

Asian-Americans

Asian-Americans

African-Americans

African-Americans

European-Americans

European-Americans

Native-Americans

Native-Americans

City Hall, Philadelphia, PA

City Hall, Philadelphia, PA

The "City of Brotherly Love"

The “City of Brotherly Love”

The printing press governed the speed of the news at our nation's founding.

The printing press governed the speed of the news at our nation’s founding. Today the world learns of invasions, political strife, and divided nations in minutes and seconds versus at the speed of a horse-bound postman.

Ironically, the page one headline in today’s Washington Post reads: “Russian troops seize Crimea.” And I’m reminded of how Ukraine is divided West and East by culture, language, and political outlook. Sadly, I think we’re going to see another bloody war. I hope calmer heads prevail and that the US and our allies don’t foolishly rush in.

Yes, a simple hyphens can divide us a people; along with multiple languages, incompatible religious beliefs, and extremism in general. It takes a lot of hard work to create, to build, to unite. It takes but a fraction of this effort to destroy, to tear down, or divide. Leadership that unites is hard work. Rash decisions based upon dictatorial desires are easy to make.

Almost immediately — pulled from my deep, deep memory — emerge the words from Alfred Tennyson, 1st Baron Tennyson. First read and recited in my Plebe English class; today remembered as an admonishment for today’s world leaders:

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death,
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldiers knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

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  1. Let us pray that history does not repeat itself.

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