For the past 25 to 30 years, the American public has been treated to an ongoing and steady diet of hearing the mantra of the word “diversity.”
We, the American public, are often told that our “diversity” is our greatest strength.
We are also bombarded with statements like “The workforce should reflect the ‘diversity’ of the nation’s ethnic and gender make-up.
The Founding Fathers of this great “American Experiment” in “ordered liberty” also believed in the uniqueness of diversity, but they believed that “diversity” should be subsumed under the concept of “E Pluribus Unum” (Latin for “Out of many, one”).
As a wordsmith, I am always fascinated by the etymology of the vocabulary that we use.
Di-vers-ity comes from the prefix “di” which means “two, double, or twice” (the prefix is of Greek origin). The suffix term is “ity” which means “state, property, quality or condition” (ity comes from French and ultimately Latin origin).
In today’s America, our country celebrates ethnic and gender diversity as if this is now to employ a Latin historical term “the summum bonum” or the highest or supreme good.
But, perhaps the question that should be asked is, is this true?
Is diversity in of and by itself the highest good?
If diversity is to be endorsed or approved of as the greatest value, then what type of diversity should be prized the most?
This observer would like to suggest that in the past, America employed a richer meaning to the word diversity.
Now, please listen to my argument before you tune me out.
Up until the last 50 to 55 years, women and minorities – especially minorities of color – faced great and at times legal barriers that thwarted their educational and economic upward mobility.
We can all be thankful for the tremendous progress that our nation has made in the past half (1/2) century with regards to improving the status of women and our citizens of color.
The Civil Rights Laws of the middle 1960s are a blessing to all of our nation’s inhabitants.
Nevertheless, in the past there was a different type of diversity that was greatly prized and that was diversity with regards to the educational, geographical, and economic development of our nation.
A case in point was that the New England and Middle Atlantic States of our union are the oldest and they reflect a development that took place before the Revolutionary War.
The Southeastern United States is nearly 110 to nearly 200 years younger than the first colonies that took place in James Bay, Virginia (1607) and the early settlement at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts (1619).
If one looks west of the Mississippi, the American frontier started its great expansion after the Louisiana Purchase which took place during the Presidential Administration of Thomas Jefferson (the 3rd President of The United States from 1801-1809).
The men and women who developed this nation came from Evangelical Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, and Deistic backgrounds.
Once more, the men and women of America across the last 175 to 200 years made their living and their fortunes through a number of “diverse” and unique ways.
- Many were farmers.
- Others ran general stores.
- Cattle ranchers abounded in the Western Territories.
- Still others were Educators.
- Some other men were members of the clergy.
- And yes, many found wealth in the “Gold Rush” of the early and middle 19th
This unique “educational, regional, and economic diversity” acted as a bulwark against large concentrations of power that could have jeopardized the freedom and liberty of the American people.
The different levels of educational and economic attainment along with regional differences within the United States forced men and women to take into account a variety of different viewpoints in their daily decision-making process.
Next week, this author would like to explore some of the educational and economic “diversity” with regards to the backgrounds of a few of our past American Presidents.
America has been blessed by the fact that many of its leaders were born and bred into many different cultural situations and diverse social contexts.