Scientia Virtus et Libertas

Written and delivered by Anna Sheley at Gov. Abbott's signing of the TX Parental Bill of Rights.

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What makes a citizen? Is it a title we’re born with? A reward we earn after passing a citizenship test? Our Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian tradition would say “neither.” Citizenship is a state of the soul, a quality of character. According to Aristotle, humans are political animals, as we rely on one another to thrive. Civic education is the hand that tames. It pertains to the responsibilities that all members of a society have to each other and the greater good.

Those of you who attend Founders will recognize the phrase Scientia Virtus et Libertas - knowledge, virtue, and liberty. Yes, this is our school motto, but it is also the roadmap that led to the creation of our 245-year old republic. It is the blueprint for our classical education - learning not only about the world, but about ourselves, our history, our character.

I’ve participated in hundreds of discussions at Founders. They have covered everything from Beowulf’s conquests and the presence of geometry in nature to Thoreau’s Transcendentalism and the reasons behind empire collapse. It is through the discussing and sharing of knowledge that we form our identities as a people, as a state, as a school, and most importantly, as human beings. Education based on civic duty is crucial in forming men and women of well-rounded character. Through it, we can defend and maintain our natural right to freedom.

Our Founders fought for liberty; now, in a time when voices are being silenced before they can utter anything that upsets the mob, we must strive to preserve our liberty to learn, grow, and flourish. In the words of Samuel Adams, “where the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued.” These words are echoed in Section 7 of the Texas Constitution, which lays the foundation for education in our state. More figuratively, our motto is “knowledge and virtue: therefore, liberty.” Participating in, and not just absorbing, an education that forms us as true citizens of America “aligns our souls with reason” (Nichomachean Ethics, Mr. Postell class lecture). Only then can we live by the good, true, and beautiful.

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