About E Pluribus Unum
Since the Enlightenment, Western cultures have struggled to find a healthy balance between community and individual rights and needs. This tension finds clear voice in the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of Many, One), which aspires to serve both many and one. In more recent days we, in the United States, have experienced new forms of public discourse which thrive on the language of discord and distortion and seem to limit our progress toward becoming a living incarnation of the ideal of E Pluribus Unum by tipping the balance far to one side or the other.
We know that having citizens who talk through their differences and find common ground is crucial to moving forward as a nation, yet intolerance and demonization of others seem to have become our national standard for political success. Yet, there are places where the goal “out of many, one” seems to be alive and well. Businesses and nonprofit organizations often experience significant success in unifying individuals from diverse backgrounds in their commitment to a common mission. In many instances this organizational version of E Pluribus Unum is healthy and affirming for all who are affected by it. In other instances, however, the identity, rights, and privileges of individuals may be plowed under in an effort to create unity out of “many,” and in some instances the aims of the unified group may even be nefarious and damaging.
Programs offered in response to this theme will explore in meaningful ways the complexity of E Pluribus Unum: the ways in which we fall short of that goal, the ways we achieve it, the benefits which come from unified action, and the pitfalls of excessive emphasis on becoming “one” at the expense of the “many.” In response to this theme Belmont will encourage conversation to foster the healthy enactment of E Pluribus Unum. Through visiting lecturers, service learning projects, community meetings, the arts, and course offerings, we hope to act as a model of talking through difference in support of the common good.