Lesson Learned (July 1)


“Mountaineers are Always Free!” is our West Virginia State Motto. I love the implication. Truth and Freedom are supreme foundational principles for me.

Montani Semper Liberi (Latin for “Mountaineers are Always Free”) has even more appeal for me, as the memory of our Buckhannon-Upshur High School Latin teacher, Mary Lou Cartwright, comes to mind. In fact, there are so many associations with Latin which provides many root words for medical terms, including “physician” from the Latin word “physicum” or “physicus.”

The way I figure, our founding fathers for our Mountain State knew Latin. Otherwise, they would not have made our motto “Montani Semper Liberi”! Curriculum at our current B-U High School could be improved to once again include more languages, including Latin.

Allow me to segue to my current personal journey of grief following the death of my beloved wife on May 17, 2021. Araceli spoke six languages including Spanish, English, Tagalog and other languages of the South Pacific Islands. Her facility with language made her transition to the United States of America much easier when she followed her dream to immigrate to “the land of the free and the home of the brave”!

Our children, Maria and Ronce, benefited from learning other languages while attending B-U High School and later, college and graduate school. I recall a joke my doctor father told me as I began to study medicine at West Virginia University. Dad said the difference between me as a first-year medical student and he as a physician is that he knew the meaning of 10,000 words that I did not. We laughed back in the fall of 1970, but I remembered to tell him it was true in the spring of 1974.

I told the same joke to Maria as she began Harvard University Medical School and Ronce as he began Duke University Law School. And I intend to tell the same joke to our four granddaughters as they go forward with their studies.

The language challenge the next generation faces will surely involve knowing Chinese, which we do teach at our high school. And I suspect a healthy respect for Latin will remain foundational.

Several years ago, our family visited the home of James Madison in Virginia. His contribution to our freedom is paramount as America’s fourth President (1809-1817). He wrote much of the U.S. Constitution by studying all previous nations governed by constitutions. He studied in the original language of each document. Later he made a major contribution to the ratification of the Constitution by writing the Federalist Papers along with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay. In later years, he was referred to as the “Father of the Constitution.”

“Mountaineers are Always Free.”

We owe our freedom to our founding fathers for West Virginia’s Statehood on June 20, 1863, and to our July 4th, 1776, Founding Fathers including James Madison. Let freedom ring! Let us declare the spread of freedom to all the people of all the languages of the world.

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