‘E Pluribus Unum’

‘E Pluribus Unum’

Some background information from Wikipedia:

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

2. It has been the traditional motto of the United States.

3. The phrase was first used on the Great Seal in 1782.

4. E pluribus unum represents unity among diverse states and people.

5. It symbolizes the merging of individual states into a single nation.

6. The motto reflects America’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

7. E pluribus unum appears on U.S. currency, including coins and bills.

8. It is also featured on various government seals and official documents.

9. The phrase signifies the strength that comes from unity and cooperation.

10. E pluribus unum serves as a reminder of America’s founding principles.

11. In 1956, the U.S. Congress passed an act adopting “In God We Trust” as the official motto.

Approximately ten years ago to the day, with intentionality I began my antiracism journey through exploration, talking to people, becoming informed, reading dozens of books, and participating in many programs. Much of this is portrayed in my memoir which is foundational to this website and related blog posts.

On a recent Mississippi River Cruise my wife and I enjoyed, a fellow passenger, as I recall, made a fleeting comment that the traditional motto of the United States, ‘E Pluribus Unum‘, was somehow not representative of his view of the country. I chose not to discuss this at the time, but given my exploration the past several months on the Principles of Democracy in previous posts, I felt it appropriate and timely to provide an overview of two of these principles mentioned and highlighted in #6 above; i.e., Diversity and Inclusivity. These two principles are also core antiracism values. I have previously spoken about Equity which completes the well-known ‘DEI’ acronym for these principles.

In my research for this post, I did discover that yes, there is some controversy surrounding the term ‘E Pluribus Unum’. This Latin phrase, meaning “Out of many, one,” has been a foundational motto of the United States since its adoption in 1782, symbolizing the union of the original thirteen colonies into a single nation. However, controversy has arisen in various contexts per the following:

  • Interpretation and Emphasis: The debate often centers around the interpretation of ‘E Pluribus Unum’ versus the later adopted national motto, ‘In God We Trust.’  Some argue that ‘E Pluribus Unum’ emphasizes unity and inclusivity, reflecting the nation’s diverse origins and the coming together of different states and peoples. On the other hand, ‘In God We Trust,’ adopted in 1956 during the Cold War, emphasizes a religious aspect that some believe better captured the national ethos.
  • Cultural and Religious Pluralism: The phrase ‘E Pluribus Unum’ can be seen as an endorsement of cultural and religious pluralism, which some conservative groups may find less appealing compared to the explicitly religious ‘In God We Trust.’ This has led to debates about which motto more accurately represents American values and identity.
  • Historical Context and Modern Relevance: Critics sometimes argue that the motto ‘E Pluribus Unum’ does not fully address contemporary issues of inclusion and equality. While it speaks to the formation of a unified nation from many states, it does not explicitly address the need to include and recognize the contributions of marginalized groups. Some suggest that the motto should be updated or accompanied by additional symbols or phrases that reflect modern values of diversity and inclusion.
  • Legal and Political Debates: There have been legal and political debates about the use of national mottos on currency, in schools, and in public buildings. These debates often touch on the appropriateness of ‘E Pluribus Unum’ versus ‘In God We Trust’ in different public contexts, reflecting broader discussions about the separation of church and state, religious freedom, and national identity.

In summary, while ‘E Pluribus Unum’ is a historic and cherished motto, its meaning and relevance continue to be subjects of discussion and debate, reflecting the evolving values and diversity of American society.

Diversity in a Democracy refers to the inclusion and representation of a wide range of different groups within the political, social, and cultural fabric of the nation. This encompasses variations in race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, abilities, and more. The presence and promotion of diversity are fundamental to the health and vibrancy of a democratic society for several reasons:

  • Representation of Interests: In a diverse democracy, it is essential that all groups have the opportunity to be represented in government and other decision-making bodies. This ensures that the interests, needs, and perspectives of all citizens are taken into account when policies and laws are made, leading to more equitable and inclusive governance.
  • Enhanced Decision-Making: Diverse perspectives contribute to better decision-making. When people from different backgrounds collaborate, they bring varied experiences and viewpoints, which can lead to more innovative solutions and more thorough considerations of the impacts of decisions on different segments of the population.
  • Legitimacy and Trust: A government that reflects the diversity of its population is likely to enjoy greater legitimacy and trust from its citizens. When people see themselves and their concerns represented in their government, they are more likely to feel invested in and supportive of democratic processes and institutions.
  • Social Cohesion: Promoting and embracing diversity can strengthen social cohesion by fostering mutual respect and understanding among different groups. This can reduce tensions and conflicts, and build a more united and resilient society.
  • Protection of Minority Rights: In a diverse democracy, special attention is given to protecting the rights of minority groups. This helps prevent the “tyranny of the majority,” where the interests of the majority might override those of minorities, leading to discrimination and marginalization.
  • Economic and Cultural Benefits: Diversity can lead to significant economic and cultural benefits. Economically, diverse workplaces and societies are often more innovative and competitive. Culturally, diversity enriches the societal fabric, offering a wide range of cultural expressions, traditions, and ideas that contribute to a richer, more vibrant community. I have personally observed this and have reaped these benefits on my journey especially with new, diverse friendships.
  • Global Perspective: In an increasingly interconnected world, Diversity within a Democracy can foster a broader, more global perspective among its citizens. This can enhance international relations, trade, and cooperation, as well as promote a more comprehensive understanding of global issues.

However, fostering diversity in a democracy also presents challenges:

  • Integration and Inclusion: Ensuring that all groups are integrated and included in the social, political, and economic life of the country requires proactive policies and efforts. This includes combating discrimination, ensuring equal opportunities, and addressing historical injustices.
  • Balancing Unity and Diversity: Democracies must find a balance between maintaining national unity and respecting diversity. This involves creating a shared sense of identity and purpose while celebrating and preserving the distinct identities of different groups.
  • Addressing Inequalities: Diversity often brings to light existing inequalities and disparities within society. Democracies must work to address these inequalities through policies that promote social justice and economic equity.

In summary, Diversity in a Democracy is about more than just the presence of different groups; it is about actively promoting inclusion, representation, and equality to create a fair, innovative, and cohesive society. By embracing diversity, democracies can become stronger, more resilient, and more reflective of the values and aspirations of all their citizens.

Regarding Inclusivity in a Democracy, this principle refers to the active effort to ensure that all individuals and groups within society have the opportunity to participate fully in the political, social, and economic life of the nation. This involves creating systems and policies that enable every citizen, regardless of their background, to have a voice and be represented in the decision-making processes. Here are some key aspects of Inclusivity in a Democracy:

  • Equal Participation: Inclusiveness ensures that all citizens have the right and opportunity to participate in elections, run for office, and engage in public discourse. This involves removing barriers such as discriminatory laws, voter suppression tactics, and socio-economic obstacles that can prevent certain groups from participating fully in the democratic process.
  • Representation: A truly inclusive democracy strives to have elected officials and decision-making bodies that reflect the diversity of the population. This means encouraging and supporting the political participation of underrepresented groups, such as women, minorities, people with disabilities, and marginalized communities.
  • Protection of Rights: Inclusiveness requires robust legal frameworks that protect the rights of all individuals, including minorities and vulnerable populations. This includes anti-discrimination laws, protections for freedom of speech and assembly, and mechanisms to address grievances and injustices.
  • Access to Resources: An inclusive democracy ensures that all citizens have access to essential resources such as education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. This helps level the playing field and allows individuals from diverse backgrounds to contribute meaningfully to society and the economy.
  • Inclusive Policymaking: Policymaking processes should be transparent and involve consultation with a broad range of stakeholders, including those from marginalized or underrepresented groups. This helps ensure that policies address the needs and concerns of the entire population, not just the majority or more powerful segments.
  • Cultural Recognition and Respect: Inclusiveness involves recognizing and valuing the cultural contributions and identities of all groups within society. This can be reflected in public celebrations, educational curricula, and the media. By fostering a culture of mutual respect and understanding, a democracy can strengthen social cohesion and unity. As a personal example, please see the note my wife and I wrote to Viking Cruises recently which touches upon both inclusivity and diversity.
  • Social Equity: Efforts must be made to address historical and systemic inequalities that have disadvantaged certain groups. This can include affirmative action policies, targeted social programs, and initiatives aimed at reducing poverty and improving access to opportunities for all.
  • Civic Education and Engagement: Promoting civic education helps ensure that all citizens understand their rights and responsibilities within a democracy. It also encourages active engagement in civic life, empowering individuals to participate in governance and community-building activities.

Some challenges to the principle of Inclusivity:

  • Overcoming Historical Inequities: Many societies have deep-rooted historical inequities that can be challenging to overcome. Efforts to promote inclusiveness must address these long-standing issues through comprehensive policies and sustained efforts.
  • Resistance to Change: Efforts to promote inclusiveness can face resistance from those who benefit from the status quo or who have prejudiced views. Overcoming this resistance requires education, dialogue, and often, strong political will.
  • Balancing Diverse Interests: Democracies must balance the diverse interests and needs of different groups, which can sometimes conflict. Effective governance requires finding common ground and building consensus while respecting diversity.

In summary, Inclusivity in a Democracy is about creating a system where everyone has a voice, rights are protected, and all citizens have the opportunity to thrive and contribute to society. It requires ongoing efforts to remove barriers, address inequalities, and foster a culture of respect and engagement. By promoting inclusiveness, democracies can become more just, equitable, and reflective of the values and aspirations of all their people.’

To conclude, e pluribus unum also has a strong Biblical connection (see the well-known ‘1 Corinthians 12:12-27’ where it speaks about unity, one body, but many gifts) which provides a profound theological foundation for diversity and inclusion.

It teaches that diversity is integral to the design and function of the community, that inclusion ensures every member is valued and able to contribute, and that unity is achieved not through uniformity but through the harmonious integration of diverse gifts and roles. This approach can inspire modern communities, including faith-based and secular organizations, to embrace and celebrate diversity while fostering an inclusive environment where everyone can thrive in and with LOVE.


In Peace & Solidarity with all who support inclusivity and diversity! … Bill

Note: Much of the information in this post was researched and adapted from online resources including AI


Letter to Viking Cruises

Dear Viking Cruises:

“We were on the recent Viking Mississippi River Cruise and had an amendment to the cruise survey we both filled out. I sent it this week to the Viking manager for the trip, and it reads as follows:

First, we would like say how great our recent cruise experience was with Viking last week from Memphis to New Orleans. Although we each used the guest survey form to summarize our thoughts and gratefulness for the experience, upon further reflection, some additional insights came to mind that we’d like to share.

Viking, your shore excursion sites, and your guides are all to be commended in the way you acknowledged and recognized the sacrifices of our Black brothers and sisters in centuries past due to the injustice of slavery. The wealth of this nation to the present day would not have been possible without what they endured which unfortunately still lingers with us today. The same holds true for our Native American brothers and sisters but the tragic history of the Black experience was more routinely acknowledged.

When you think about it, even this cruise is an outcome of Black sacrifice, bravery, and resilience on the part of millions. Approximately 400 fellow cruise members, 99%+ of whom were white, were privileged to enjoy all that the Southern Mississippi region had to offer within the services and luxury of this Viking experience … for that my wife and I will be forever grateful for.

But we also recognize the roots of racial injustice that made it possible. This leads me to another observation and perhaps some things for Viking to consider in the future. I believe all the bus drivers we had were Black and virtually all the Tour Guides either on the bus or at specific locations were white. All of them did an excellent job, but the distinction was obvious, at least to us.

One other observation for Viking’s consideration was the lack of diversity re: the Viking leadership team on the cruise … it was comprised of all white males except for one white woman. Food for thought.

Thanks again … it was a wonderful trip. We would greatly appreciate it if you could add these thoughts to our recent survey input so they can be fully considered. All the best to you and perhaps our paths might cross again.”

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Comment ( 1 )

  • Sandy Wynne

    Bill, this is very well written and reveals a great deal of research you must have done in putting this together. You also brought up some good points in writing about the challenges this presents. I liked tying in the Biblical connection in your closing.

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