Vt. Receives New Latin Motto

Saturday, April 11, 2015
Burlington — Vermont has a new Latin motto, thanks to a ninth-grader from the Northeast Kingdom sharing her love of the ancient language with the entire Green Mountain State.

Stella quarta decima fulgeat, or “May the 14th star shine bright,” officially became the state’s Latin motto Friday when it was signed into law by Gov. Peter Shumlin in a ceremony in the University of Vermont’s Patrick Gymnasium.

On hand for the signing of S.2 was 15-year-old Angela Kubicke, of Peacham, Vt., whose idea it was to establish a Latin motto, the teacher who inspired her and the state senator who made it happen.

Kubicke is now a freshman at Lyndon Institute, but the idea to propose it to her state senator, Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, stemmed from her experience studying Latin with teacher Roy Starling at the Riverside School in Lyndonville, Vt.

“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!”

Latin is woven through our language and our society, including our government, Kubicke said.

“I think (people) should take away that Latin is not a dead language; don’t dismiss it, don’t throw it away,” she said.

Benning, placing an ivy crown on his head, told the story of how he was touched by the letter he received last year from Kubicke.

“Young Angela Kubicke had the idea that we have a Latin motto for this state,” said Benning, describing himself as a history buff. “It was a great idea.”

Shumlin, who gave Kubicke the pen he signed the Latin motto law with, agreed.

Shumlin praised Kubicke for persevering through 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.

“She took some heat from some folks who misunderstood what we were trying to do here,” Shumlin said.

Of Vermont now having a Latin motto nodding to when the Green Mountain State became the 14th state in the United States of America, Shumlin said, “it is an extremely fitting motto for the best state in the nation.”

Shumlin thanked Kubicke for her imagination, courage and strength to see the idea through to Friday’s signing.

As an eighth-grader, Kubicke studied Latin abbreviations and mottos as part of her work for the National Junior Classical League’s annual competition, which she said is a Latin-version of the show Jeopardy.

Kubicke then discovered that Vermont did not have a Latin motto. She came upon a coin from 1785 minted in the town of East Rupert, when Vermont was not yet a state, which included the first three words of the new motto — Stella quarta decima, or “May the 14th star shine bright.”

The coin had been minted as Vermont was attempting to become the 14th state, Benning said.

Kubicke, encouraged by Starling, wrote to Benning, and had hoped to see legislation introduced last year, but it was late in the session, so the work had to wait for this year.

The motto will go into effect July 1, according to the legislation, which was approved by the House and Senate this session.

Appropriately, the new Latin motto was signed officially into law by the governor at Vermont Latin Day, an annual celebration hosted by the University of Vermont.

“I think it shows that the right thing does happen, in politics and in life,” said a smiling Starling, who attended along with other Riverside School middle school teachers and students.

Starling said that the English language owes a huge debt to Latin’s root; about 80 percent of English words that have more than two syllables trace to either Greek or Latin origin.

“How terrific that classroom learning was extended to the floor of the Legislature in Montpelier,” Riverside School Headmaster Laurie Boswell said Friday.

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.

Benning said that a dear friend and respected professor of his, the late Sen. Graham Newell, who taught at both Lyndon State College, where Benning knew him, and at St. Johnsbury Academy as its longtime Latin teacher, would have appreciated the effort to establish a Latin motto. Benning holds Newell’s former seat in the Senate.

The new Latin motto will not replace the state’s “freedom and unity” state motto, and will not go on the state seal or the state flag. It is akin to the state’s having the sugar maple as a state tree, Benning said.


Latin on a coin minted in the town of East Rupert, Vt., in 1785 figured in the creation of a new state motto. An earlier version of this story named the wrong town.

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