What’s in a Motto? A Lotto! (A Lot!)
Seoul National University Motto: https://www.google.ca/search?q=seoul+national+university&biw=1747&bih=867&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&sqi=2&ved=0ahUKEwjw7r389cDLAhXFtYMKHTNmBXUQsAQINQ
Harvard University Motto: https://www.harvard.edu/
“VE-RI-TAS” (Latin) is translated as “Truth”; and “VERTAS LUX MEA” can be translated as “Truth Enlightens Me.”
Given that the two mottos are very similar, one can’t help but wonder whose motto influenced whose. Since Harvard University traces its roots back to (Harvard College established in) 1636 and Seoul National University was established in 1946, it is likely that the Harvard’s motto influenced the Seoul National University’s motto. Both mottos are virtually identical in terms of content, but the two mottos couldn’t be any more different in terms of style and their interpretation of the nature truth.
This last point reminds me of a professor of mine who said that subtlety is of paramount importance in dealing with people at the Ivy League schools. He should know firsthand because he is an Ivy Leaguer himself. He said that you need to tell ‘em (them) that you are good without saying so. In other words, one needs to be very strong in one’s message yet be ever so indirect.
“Truth Enlightens Me” appears to be a very direct statement which takes truth to be a given. On the other hand, “VE-RI-TAS” is far more subtle in that the word “veritas” is formed in one’s mind after seeing “VE” in one book, “RI” in another book and “TAS” in yet another book. I believe the Harvard’s motto is conveying what it needs to convey without directly saying so. I believe it is conveying that: (i) truth isn’t a given. In other words, truth isn’t something objective-it doesn’t float around in an empty space somewhere nicely packaged and waiting to be picked up; but rather, (ii) truth is something that a person arrives at after studying multiple sources (represented by three books). To me, this existential process is an essential aspect of education; and Harvard’s motto sums it up ever so subtly and beautifully.