A common mistake

A COMMON MISTAKE…. We talked on Tuesday about the right’s frustration with President Obama over, of all things, the national motto. Obama recently delivered a speech in which he told students at the University of Indonesia, “In the United States, our motto is E pluribus unum — out of many, one.”

The conservative members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus wrote to insist that the president acknowledge “In God We Trust” as the actual national motto, which soon after led to coverage on Fox News. Conservative blogger Ed Morrissey was especially unhappy, citing the president’s remarks as being evidence of “Obamateurism” — conservative humor is so droll — and asking, “Do high schools in Hawaii actually teach civics? And can anyone in the White House do basic fact-checking research on Obama’s speeches before he delivers them?”

Religion writer Frank Lockwood raised a good point in response to all of this. (via Steve M.)

Would Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, the Gipper, refer to E Pluribus Unum as our national motto?

The answer is Yes. Speaking at the National Forum on Excellence in Education, on Dec. 8, 1983 in Indianapolis, Indiana, Ronald Reagan said, and I quote: “The motto of the United States is ‘E Pluribus Unum,’ from many, one.”

As far as I can tell, there wasn’t a Congressional Prayer Caucus around in 1983 to scold Mr. Reagan for calling E Pluribus Unum the official motto of our nation.

Lockwood also noted that George W. Bush, among others, also referenced E pluribus unum as the national motto, just as Reagan and Obama did.

For some reason, the Prayer Caucus, Fox News, and conservative bloggers ignored Bush’s error. I’m sure it was just an oversight. I’ll look forward to their follow-up efforts, condemning Reagan and Bush for their casual disregard for American civics.