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E Pluribus Unum. “Out of Many, One.”

Posted by on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 in Commentary.

By: Brennan Cegelka, Class of 2023 

On the day America declared its independence from Great Britain, the Continental Congress tasked three of our most esteemed Founding Fathers – Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, with creating the first seal of the United States.

While the seal they proposed ultimately was not adopted, the motto emblazoned thereon became the unofficial motto of America: E Pluribus Unum. “Out of Many, One.”  The motto appears on our money, in our passports, and on the seals for all three branches of government.

It reveals that inherent in America’s very foundation is the ideal that diversity – of opinion and of people – is our greatest strength. It is our most unifying characteristic. The one thing almost all Americans have in common is that none of us are from here. That rich diversity leads to a deeper, more profound appreciation for the very principles upon which this country was founded:

free speech, religious liberty, and equality. People from all over the world come to America because the rights enshrined in our Constitution will protect them.

Too often, people confuse unity with uniformity. That is a superficial and simpleminded interpretation of unity. Homogeneity is not the same as unity. While similar people may work together toward a common goal, research has shown time and again that diverse people working together yields even better results. It’s true in athletics. It’s true in business. And it’s true in the military. It seems that diversity and unity are two sides of the same coin. Unity is not the absence of diversity, but the celebration of it.

The VandyBoys are a great example of how diversity becomes a unifying force in sports.

Working for the baseball team, I saw firsthand how diversity is celebrated within the program. Coach Corbin prominently displays a map of the United States inside the facility with stars identifying each player’s home town. The players are far more racially and socio-economically diverse than the typical NCAA team, which is 80% white. This diverse group of young men come to Vanderbilt from every corner of the country united by a common goal. It is a mirror of our nation. The team works together without conforming. Rather, they celebrate their differences and offer new ideas on how to approach the game. Without this diversity of people and opinion, the program would become stagnant and less successful.

Like sports, businesses that embrace diversity tend to perform better.  In a series of reports, the consulting firm McKinsey found that diverse companies are more profitable than their peers. In fact, McKinsey concluded that the more diverse a company is, the more likely it was to outperform its less diverse competitors. Deloitte reached the same conclusion after conducting two years of research. Deloitte concluded that “companies that embrace diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business statistically outperform their peers.”  Bringing together a team of employees from different backgrounds yields better, more profitable results.

Finally, diversity and unity of purpose makes us safer. The Secretary of the Army explained that diversity leads to better problem solving, narrows the civil-military divide and gives the United States a competitive advantage because it expands the Army’s ability to engage citizens from various countries in their language and culture. “Teams of individuals drawn from diverse economic backgrounds, academic disciplines and political affiliations are better problem solvers and drivers of innovation,” explained Army Secretary Eric Fanning. In short, a diverse army is better able to protect Americans and defend America’s interests around the world.

Our Founding Fathers were prescient. Protecting, encouraging and defending the rights of individuals to be different is our most unifying ideal – an ideal that strengthens nearly every aspect of American life to this day.

 

Brennan Cegelka

Vanderbilt University, Class of 2023

Major: Economics and History

Hometown: Lexington, KY

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