Friday, April 28, 2000

Submit your ideas for state motto

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Ohio's motto has been found to be unconstitutional. Jim Mastronardo finds that ruling to be unbelievable. And sad.

        He sees his hard work and his mom's wise advice going down the drain. He also feels the people of Ohio are being cheated out of their motto.

        Jim came up with Ohio's motto in 1958, when he was a 10-year-old kid in Hartwell. While doing his social studies homework, he discovered Ohio was the only motto-less state.

        He thought something his mother often told him would make a good motto. When he was troubled, she'd say: “With God, all things are possible.”

        Jim put his suggestion in a letter to the Enquirer. Lawmakers latched onto his idea. Jim became the motto's official lobbyist. He gathered 18,000 signatures in favor of his idea. In 1959, Ohio's official motto became: “With God, all things are possible.”

        Jim didn't know those words came from the Bible. He just knew them as a quote from his mom.

        The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit knows better. The court ruled Tuesday that the motto, from the Bible's book of Matthew, is unconstitutional. It violates the separation of church and state.

        “Why should a federal court decide what we're going to have for our motto — and I say "our' even though I now live in Florence, Kentucky,” Jim told me. “That decision is just unbelievable.

        “It's not the court's motto. It's not my motto or my mom's. That motto belongs to the people.”

        I agree. But the Constitution does not allow biblical quotes in state business, on official stationery, buildings or tax returns, which is where you can find “With God, all things are possible.”

        Ohio plans to appeal the court's decision, if necessary all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the appeal fails, the state will be shopping for a new motto.

        I like to shop early. So, I'm open to suggestions. Send me your ideas for Ohio's new motto via the mail, phone or fax. I'll print them in a future column.

        To help prime the idea pump, I asked a select bunch of literate Ohioans what they would like to see as the state's motto.

        Jim Mastronardo went first. “My son Derek came up with this: "With perseverance, we shall prevail.'”

        Lawyer Stan Chesley submitted: “A state that cares about people.”

        Arts angel Patricia Corbett entered: “With good will, all things are possible.”

        Comic Blair Shannon delivered: “We may be Buckeyes, but we're not nuts.”

        Former Ohio Gov. James A. Rhodes gave me permission to use one of his favorite sayings: “Ohio has more good things by accident than most other states have on purpose.”

        Singer Kathy Wade collaborated with her tour coordinator, Yvonne Thomas, for: “Ohio — The magic of the Midwest.”

        Bengals boss Mike Brown opted for “In God we trust,” the federal, constitutionally OK motto. “If the Supreme Court ever declares that one unconstitutional, we can burn our paper money.”

        That's enough sample mottos to get started. Just don't quote from the Bible or recycle other states' mottos.

        “United we stand, divided we fall” belongs to Kentucky. Indiana claims “The crossroads of America.”

        Otherwise, there are no right or wrong answers to this request.

        With mottos, all things are possible.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at (513) 768-8379; fax 768-8340. Or email your suggestions to

Congressmen seek vote on Ohio motto