President David Hodge’s announcement of a “Great Seal-Writing Contest” for the new student center provides an opportunity to consider the motto on Miami’s seal, “Prodesse Quam Conspici.”
Translated, this means to achieve, to improve, to advance — but to do so without boasting about it, without bragging about it, and without screaming “LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME! HEY EVERYBODY, LOOK AT ME! I’M THE BESTEST, MOST WONDERFULEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSE EVER!”
Instead, Miami’s traditional seal is a succinct statement of quintessential Midwest values: Do your work, do it well, strive to learn, to do better and to achieve and advance — but don’t make an asinine, self-promoting show of it.
Yet bombarded as we are from the university with constant hype about our most wonderful rankings in the history of the world ever, Mother Miami seems to have prostituted her noble ideal into its antithesis: “CONSPICI! CONSPICI! ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT — NOTHING BUT CONSPICI! GIANT OCEAN CARGO SHIPS FULL OF CONSPICI!” “OUR CONSPICI IS THE FIFTH BEST CONSPICI IN THE NATION!” HEY WE’RE CONSPICI ABOUT OUR CONSPICI!”
So let us have a Seal-Writing Contest, but I’ll go President Hodge one better: In addition to a contest, let us also put back the grand old Miami seal on all university stationery, make its motto “Prodesse Quam Conspici” a prominent part of what President Hodge calls the Miami experience, and scrap the current “lamp of knowledge” image that has the profundity of a fool.