Rather Be Than Seem - Motto of B.M.I.

by Joe Porter ‘67

The motto of Bordentown Military Institute (BMI) was first found in Cicero's essay, “On Friendship...esse quam videri”. The essay quoted “virtute enim ipsa non tam multi praediti esse quam videri redunt.” (Translation - “Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so.”) Other great writers such as Sallust, Aeschylus and even Plato, used similar lines.

BMI's motto has been in place since 1881. There are over 75 schools, past and present, throughout the world, who use this motto. These include: Appalachian State University (1899), The Episcopal Academy (Newtown Square, PA), Hartford Public High School (Hartford, Connecticut), The Ellis School (Pittsburgh, PA), Royal Holloway (University of London, Surrey, England), University of North Carolina (Charlotte, NC), and Wavell State High School (Brisbane, Australia). Even TV personality, Stephen Colbert, inverted the phrase on his show as “to seem to be, rather than to be.”

The state motto of North Carolina is “esse quam videri” which means “to be rather than to seem”. It was made the official state motto in 1893 (twelve years after BMI). North Carolina was the last of the original states to adopt a state motto.

Many people have asked, What does the motto mean?” Well...

North Carolinians have been quoted as saying, “We don't feel as though anything; we feel things or we don't. And we will tell you about it, rather than telling you that it may, perhaps, somewhat, be something that might well have crossed our minds.” In other words, be direct rather than “beat around the bush” and be indecisive. It takes a special person to be direct and do it rather than just talk about it and not do it.

As the people from North Carolina say, “We were the last of the thirteen colonies to come up with a motto and it shows tenacity. We would rather be precise than seem so.”

Click on: esse quam videri and read more on Wikipedia about BMI's great motto - “Rather Be Than Seem.”


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