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Vermont State Latin Motto

Stella quarta decima fulgea Language: Latin Adopted: April 10, 2015

Translation: May the 14th star shine bright Origin: Angela Kubicke, eighth-grade

What is a motto?

Merriam-Webster Online defines motto in this way:

State mottoes may be said to reflect the character and beliefs of the citizens of the state, or more accurately, the citizens of the state when they were adopted. State mottoes can often help us gain insight into the history of a state.

An idea; a Latin motto for Vermont

Vermont copper
1785 Harmon cent or Vermont copper

Angela Kubicke, an eighth-grade student at The Riverside School in Lyndonville in 2014, was studying Latin when she contacted State Senator Joe Benning with an idea.

She was studying Latin abbreviations and mottos in preparation for a National Junior Classical League competition and, at that time, she realized that Vermont did not have a Latin motto. Twenty-two other states did.

Angela decided she wanted to provide the State of Vermont with a Latin motto, not to replace the state's "Vermont; Freedom and Unity" adopted as an element of the Vermont Coat of Arms and displayed prominently on the flag of the State of Vermont (1779), but to abide side-by-side with it.

Ms. Kubicke gained inspiration for her proposal from a coin she came across that had been minted in Rupert by the Republic of Vermont in 1785.

In 1785, Vermont was an independent republic. Many Vermonters thought, however, that inevitably, eventually Vermont would join the Union and they often referred to their state as "the 14th star," in direct association with flag of the United States where a star for each of its current member states was displayed within the canton.

Let's get back to the coin.

Upon one side of the coin, the Harmon cent, was a Latin inscription "Stella quarta decima," meaning "the fourteenth star." This inscription reflected the feelings of many Vermonters at the time.

Angela liked what she saw and adapted the coin's inscription to form a Latin motto for Vermont; Stella quarta decima fulgea translated as "May the 14th star shine bright," a direct reference to Vermont as the 14th state, or star, to join the Union.

Adoption of the Vermont Latin motto

On January 13, 2015, Vermont State Senator Joe Benning introduced Senate Bill No. 2, proposing that Angela's Latin motto, Stella quarta decima fulgea be designated the state Latin motto. The bill was read for the first time, then referred to the Senate Committee.

"Vermont used to make its own coins and on that coin called a harmon cent was that latin language which we are now seeking to have brought forward into the 21st century and have a latin motto," said Benning. [1]

Man yelling left Man yelling right

There was no reason to believe that the simple act of proposing a piece of legislation that would honor Vermont's history in the form of a Latin motto would degenerate into an internet storm of ignorance and prejudice. But, unfortunately, that is what did happen.

Before long, word got out to the general public, through news reporting agencies, that there was a proposal before the Vermont General Assembly that would designate a Latin state motto as an official expression of the state.

For reasons that defy logic, the idea was associated with Latino peoples and the contentious political atmosphere regarding immigration in the United States. Evidently the ancient Roman language was confused with Latin America. The internet exploded with a spate of bigoted commentary. Or as mildly reported by The Valley News,

... a misunderstanding that turned into a social media frenzy when the suggestion of a Latin motto prompted some people to post anti-Hispanic and anti-immigration remarks. [2]

Angela, to her credit, took the kerfuffle in stride.

"I was like, this is kind of funny, like is this like an SNL skit someone put on? But, no," said Kubicke. [3]

She called the Internet reaction "a little bit appalling. It’s a lack of knowledge. I think that’s why this motto is very important. It sheds a light on the classics." [4]

She added with a laugh: "Maybe people will learn the difference between Rome and Mexico." [4]

Vermont State House, Montpelier, Vermont
Vermont State House, Montpelier, Vermont
State House Photographs

Keeping her eye on the ball and accompanied by Senator Benning, Angela testified in front of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, explaining the reasoning behind her endeavor. In support, she was joined by a group of Lamoille Union High School Latin students, a Riverside School Latin teacher, and two University of Vermont classics professors, one retired.

On February 13, 2015 and with little debate, the committee reported favorably on the Latin motto bill paving the way for consideration by the full Senate. The committee vote was unanimous.

Four days later, on February 17, the bill was passed by a vote of the full Senate.

The bill was next forwarded to the House of Representatives, where it was again referred to committee, the House Committee on Government Operations.

These comments speak to the level of ignorance, prejudice and lack of comprehension among many of our citizens. As elected officials we are used to dealing with this but to subject a 9th grader to this level of vitriolic ranting is inexcusable. She weathered it with grace and good humor. I hope as it moves through the House that it will not foster the same uneducated rantings and that Angela will not have to see that side of Vermont again. [5]

Again, Angela testified in support of her bill along with her former Riverside School Latin teacher and again Senate Bill No. 2 was recommended for passage.

On March 27, 2015, Senate Bill No. 2 was passed by a vote in the full House of Representatives.

The University of Vermont's annual Latin Day *

The Latin motto Stella quarta decima fulgea became Vermont's official Latin motto when Governor Peter Shumlin signed Senate Bill No. 2 on April 10, 2015 at a ceremony in Patrick Gymnasium.

"Veni, vidi, signati," remarked Governor Shumlin. I came, I saw, I signed.

Angela, now a freshman at Lyndon Institute was on hand along with the Latin teacher who inspired her and Senator Joe Benning who helped her to make it happen.

"It feels pretty cool," said Kubicke, all smiles and posing for photos and conducting television interviews at UVM like a seasoned politician. "It’s definitely a rush!" [2]

Vermont's Latin motto draws its own history into the present and is entirely fitting as a representative of the state.

*The celebration saw students of Latin statewide, as well as their teachers, donning togas and taking part in a day of competitions, contests, projects, displays, skit performances and festivities. The 39th annual Vermont Latin Day was hosted by UVM’s Department of Classics. [2]


"Latin Motto Idea Draws Confused Fire in Vermont." WMUR. Hearst Television, Inc. 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.wmur.com/news/latin-motto-idea-draws-confused-fire-in-vermont/31132310>.

[1] "Should Vermont Have an Official Latin Motto?" WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports. Worldnow and WCAX, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. <http://www.wcax.com/story/27849008/should-vermont-have-an-official-latin-motto>.

"Shumlin Signs Bill Creating Latin Vermont State Motto." The Times-Union. The Hearst Corporation, 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Shumlin-signs-bill-creating-Latin-Vermont-state-6192159.php>.

[3] "Vermont's New Latin Motto Becomes Official." WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports. Worldnow and WCAX, 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.wcax.com/story/28771780/vermonts-new-latin-motto-becomes-official>.

[4] Gramm, David. "Confused Critics Blast Latin Motto Plan." Burlington Free Press. Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc, 6 Feb. 2015. Web. 8 Feb. 2015. <http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/news/local/2015/02/06/confused-critics-blast-latin-motto-plan/23012921/>.

Nixon, Amy Ash. "Latin motto is gaining traction." Stowe Today. The Stowe Reporter, LLC. 26 Mar. 2015. Web. 28 Mar. 2015. <http://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/news/state_news/latin-motto-is-gaining-traction/article_80333092-d3c5-11e4-93f5-fb6d823ca651.html>.

[2] Nixon, Amy Ash. "Vt. Receives New Latin Motto." The News Source of the Upper Valley | Valley News. Valley News, 11 Apr. 2015. Web. 11 Apr. 2015. <http://www.vnews.com/news/16462288-95/vt-receives-new-latin-motto>.

[2] White, Jeanette. "White: Notes from the Senate." Brattleboro Reformer. MediaNews Group, Inc., 25 Feb. 2015. Web. 26 Feb. 2015. <http://www.reformer.com/localeditorials/ci_27599567/white-notes-from-senate>.

Benning, Joe. "An Act Relating to the Establishment of a State Latin Motto." The Vermont General Assembly. The State of Vermont, 10 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://legislature.vermont.gov/bill/status/2016/S.2>.

Freedom and Unity: Official state motto of Vermont from NETSTATE.COM.

Latin state mottoes: Complete list of Latin state mottoes from NETSTATE.COM.

Visit the NETSTATE Vermont State Book Store for additional Vermont related books, including Vermont Reference Books, History, Biographies and Cookbooks.

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