I thought I understood the phrase that was our unofficial national motto for one-hundred-seventy-four years until I actually saw it in action and realized that there was much more I hadn’t yet appreciated. Rather than thinking of “E pluribus unum” as merely a noun, for the first time I witnessed it as a verb. Last week, while in our nation’s capitol, I saw the truth that makes “E pluribus unum” such a vital part of what America is. “Out of many, one” is a phrase many will hear and never stop to dwell on; but for me, that phrase came alive as I saw touches and hints of it everywhere I went in Washington D.C.
There were thousands of people in Washington D.C. We couldn’t walk a few steps without having to maneuver around another group of people. It usually isn’t very pleasant to be around large crowds of people who are all attempting to reach or see the same object, but in this case it was different. Beneath the pushing and shoving in the National Archives as everyone strained to view our founding documents, and hidden in the faces of the impatient tourists waiting in long lines, there was a very real sense of what “E pluribus unum” is all about. Even amidst the chaos that surrounds D.C.’s busy streets, Americans are there for many of the same reasons: They are viewing our national heritage. I saw many parents who brought their children to D.C. and were explaining to them what each monument and building represented.
I’m proud to be an American. I know of our beginnings– we began with thirteen colonies who joined together to create one new united nation, and as time went on those colonies added thirty-seven more states to the union. However, “E pluribus unum” never came alive for me before as much as it did while I was in D.C. I saw people from every race, religion, age group, and party affiliation all together in one place– acting as one people. In the place where party lines are so pronounced and often get in the way of accomplishing necessary duties, I saw more American unity than I had ever experienced in one place before. I saw only one flag flying high everywhere I looked: Old Glory. No one was ashamed to salute it or proudly gaze as it blew in the wind. No one was concerned about what color your skin was, what your native accent sounded like, or what your political leanings were; everyone was just Americans.
The “greatest experiment” that continues today was one that was unprecendented prior to its beginning. Every other nation in the world is united by one religion, one political party, one race, or some other common factor. America, on the other hand, brings together people of every background in every area and accepts them for who they are, recruiting them to help us carry on this “experiment.” No other nation has survived that is bound solely by the title its citizens carry by living in it– only in America is that possible. “E pluribus unum” could not be a more accurate statement.