Husted ’13: Rebuttal
I agree that changing the motto would come at serious immediate costs. I disagree that these costs would be outweighed by the benefits. I wonder what he would propose for a new motto? It seems Spencer Gordon ’14 thinks that change should occur for the sake of change alone. While it is certainly true that Brown students have challenged tradition in many ways, these changes have come within the context of our University and our ideals. We threw away the core curriculum because we believed it an obstacle to creative learning. We did not throw away classrooms or teachers. Our motto is not only rooted in a deep tradition, but it also serves an important role in guiding our pursuit of knowledge, which Gordon fails to acknowledge.
Furthermore, Gordon makes the mistake of thinking that Brown’s motto is exclusionary. This belief relies on a narrow interpretation of God. It is no bold claim to consider God an ideal, as outlined in my opening statement. God is both a greater society and a divine state of being. A greater state of being both from within and without us is an ideal that we should hope for.
Even if you do interpret the motto as a literal God, which I don’t recommend, this statement is still not exclusionary. College is hard sometimes, and it is a noble joy to hope that some benevolent figure watches over us, even if it is not true. Such is the nature of hope. That is what makes “in God we hope” so much better than “in God we trust.” The former does not imply belief, just preference. The latter implies that we know God exists and that we put our faith in him. Hoping in God is not mutually exclusive with either atheism or religion. Belief is.
Former president Francis Wayland is one of the more notable figures of Brown’s history. He, no doubt, put much thought into “In Deo Speramus.” Since Brown was founded as a school that was tolerant of all forms of religious beliefs, we can be certain that this motto was ever intended to be simple-minded or exclusionary. In fact, it contains a great deal of wisdom and can be a source of inspiration, even for the atheist. Hope leaves room for chance and it guides our mission forward, but it does not imply that we know what lies ahead. However, this path should always be in the pursuit of something greater than ourselves. This motto has inspired Brown students for nearly two centuries. There is no reason to think that it won’t continue to do so.