Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
After spending nine hours on the road after the Music City Bowl last month, the Maryland state line was a welcome sight. I was greeted with a sign bearing our flag, a black-eyed Susan and the motto “Leave No One Behind.”
Gov. Wes Moore made this phrase his slogan during his 2022 gubernatorial campaign. It was the anthem of a movement that sought to rectify the state’s worsening income inequality and guarantee educational opportunities for all. It’s a simple, modern motto for Maryland that could be proudly displayed on bumper stickers, state seals and welcome signs for generations without going out of style.
Imagine my disappointment when I discovered the actual state motto, “Fatti maschii, parole femine.”
Your first reaction to reading that may be, “Wow, a beautiful old Latin phrase for a beautiful old state.” But no, it’s an Italian phrase without an agreed-upon translation that directly means “manly deeds, womanly words.”
New Hampshire has “Live Free or Die,” Rhode Island has “Hope,” Virginia is for lovers and Maryland has an arbitrarily divisive phrase whose meaning has been retranslated twice by the state legislature.
“Fatti maschii” does not make sense for a state in which almost half the workforce is made up of women, and reinforces archaic gender norms dating back to the mid-17th century, when the Calvert family adopted it as their motto.
Moore touted the state’s commitments to equal opportunity and economic prosperity for all in his inauguration address. “Fatti maschii” contradicts this message completely and it’s time for a change. “Leave No One Behind” should be Maryland’s motto for the benefit of our state’s brand.
If Moore pushes for it, he would also stand to benefit. As of October, he has a 60 percent statewide approval rating, and his party holds a trifecta over Maryland’s government. Officially approving his own slogan as the state motto would be a symbolic victory for his young administration and leave a permanent mark on Maryland.
Our state’s brand is strong, but it’s incomplete. Maryland’s most recognizable symbol is the flag, but it once had a song as well. “Maryland, My Maryland” was formally adopted in 1939 with the lyrics, “Dear Mother! burst the tyrant’s chain … Virginia should not call in vain.”
The “tyrant” in question here is Abraham Lincoln and the song calls for Maryland to heed “Virginia’s call” by seceding from the union. It was originally written as a poem in 1861 as a sort of Confederate fanfiction. After more than 10 attempts, the state legislature finally repealed the song in 2021. It has not yet been replaced.
A Baltimore Banner columnist wrote to Moore last year to search for a new song. Replacing the motto first could kickstart progress in this area, pushing the state government to finally complete our set of symbols.
The replacement of outdated or unpopular symbols is a noble pursuit — one that many other states have recently undertaken. Mississippi, Utah and Minnesota released new flag designs in the last four years with Michigan, Illinois and Maine considering changing theirs. These new banners utilize a minimalist approach to flag design, as none have ever been able to recreate Maryland’s sensory-overloading maximalist beauty.
“Leave No One Behind” is the antithesis of “Fatti maschii.” Instead of boxing Marylanders into predescribed roles, it promises to uplift us all equally. With its adoption as the state motto, national audiences would associate Maryland with equality and progress. They would see the full message of our symbols put together — the promise Maryland makes to its citizens.
Our flag is made from fragmented designs, joined together to form a balanced pattern. It reminds me of the yin and yang, which itself conveys harmony between differing forces. If the flag symbolizes contrast, then the motto should symbolize unity. This would paint a full picture and be a welcome sight for travelers passing through.
“Welcome to Maryland, leave no one behind.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this column misstated that the Maryland state song was written at the height of the Jim Crow era. The Jim Crow era lasted from the 1870s to the 1950s and 1960s. This column has been updated.
Joey Barke is a junior government and politics and journalism major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org