The University of Georgia is a lofty institution of higher education located in the piedmont of the state. Sprawling across a 759-acre plot in the city of Athens, the University is the dominant attraction of Athens-Clarke county and its environs.
The impact of the University reaches far beyond the city of Athens, however. Young men and women from all over the country, the state and even the globe come to the University of Georgia. They come to be educated in some of the best programs by some of the best professors in the world, which is only partly a subjective assessment. The University of Georgia is where the majority of Georgian parents — and secretly, I am convinced, every parent in this nation — dreams his or her child will go.
But what is it that makes this fine University inherently superior to Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and every other university in the the world? Just three pillars. Three pillars separate this University from the rest.
The focal point of the Great Seal of Georgia, adopted by the Georgia General Assembly in 1799, is a three-pillared arch, and each of its pillars is adorned with its own distinct virtue. From left to right respectively, the official pillars of the state of Georgia and the University that shares its name are Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.
The Arch itself is symbolic of the Constitution of the State of Georgia. As an architectural feature, the arch was a Greco-Roman invention designed to span large gaps while maintaining strength and structural integrity, the strongest part of the arch being the keystone located at the arch’s apex. The strongest part of Georgia’s arch is its constitution: the principles, dreams and ideals that our forefathers deemed important enough to enshrine on a sheet of permanent parchment.
While University of Georgia students and other insiders often joke that Moderation and Wisdom are all about how much time you spend on the side of Broad street across from the Arch, the values of justice, wisdom and moderation were chosen as representatives of ideal government, with justice representing the judicial branch, wisdom the legislative branch and moderation the executive. These principle values for an ideal society originate from Plato’s Republic, which includes the additional virtue of courage, implicitly represented in the seal by the soldier standing under the arch, protecting it by arms.
We place a high premium in this state on our heritage, and our history is a proud one. We fought in the Civil War because we believed in the individual rights of states and that the executive branch is subject to limitation — in so doing, we fought for moderation. Our legislature, the General Assembly, is older than the U.S. Congress; since 1777 it has sought to uphold our state constitution, while accommodating the federal government, under prayers for wisdom and discernment. Our courts have seen the ugliest sentiments toward racism and segregation, and justice ultimately prevailed.
We have pressed on as a state — and so too as a University. The first of its kind in the nation, the University of Georgia has been pivotal to Georgia history. How many legislators have come from UGA in the past, deciding our future? Where but in front of the Arch did students protest to let Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes attend the University? This University and this State have been symbiotic in progress, and inseparable in their traditions and history. Both were born just after the Revolutionary War, and both adopted the same Arch as their symbol.
As an iron representation of an ideal society and a rite of passage at the end of a scholar’s journey, the Arch is integral to the state and the university that seeks to embody its values. One would be hard-pressed to find another such relationship between a state and a college. A cord of three strands is not easily broken; an Arch supported by three pillars will never fall.
—Richard “Rebel” Lord is a sophomore studying political science and anthropology
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