The Story of Us

written by Dr. Sudarsan Kant, MO Humanities Board Member

E Pluribus Unum, from the many, one. In this season of illness, death and isolation these three simple words remind us that we are knit together in this multi-hued quilt we call America and while it may be frayed in parts and unravelling in others, we are each in our own way seeking comfort and the warmth of belonging. Among the family of nations, we are a relatively young country and yet in many ways we are as old as other historic communities in the stories we tell about our place in this world. The story of America cannot be reduced to her wars and conflict, to political and economic successes and failures, to her virtues and vices or believing as each generation does that they are writing her concluding chapter. The story of America is the stories of her people who were already here, who were brought against their will and who came willingly to build a new life in what they believed was the new world. The animating spirit of the American story is one of relocations and dislocations, of movement and change, of invention and reinventions and of coming together and falling apart.

Each individual, community, territory or state in our union makes a meaningful contribution to this continuing American narrative. We at the Missouri Humanities Council play our part in helping everyone in our great state to add to the story of America and our place in it. Our heritage programs pay tribute to our Native American, African American and German immigrant communities who have done so much towards the development and growth of our state. Today that work continues across the state within rural, urban and suburban communities, among young people and senior citizens and from individuals and families who have lived in Missouri for many generations to new immigrant communities like the Bosnian’s in St. Louis.

This month we celebrate in Missouri and across the nation Black history month which provides us with an opportunity to focus on the many contributions African Americans have made to our state and our nation. Each community’s stories informs and enriches us because our uniqueness lies not in our ancient monuments or medieval cities but in the histories and stories of our people and their communities. By adding or focusing on a particular chapter of our national narrative does not negate the American story but compels us to reach further and look deeper and truly begin to appreciate who we are as a people and nation.

We celebrate our bicentennial year as part of the union which in the long span of human history is a mere dot on the timeline. But the stories we tell about ourselves and our place in this world is timeless. The Missouri Humanities Council is dedicated to connecting for the people of Missouri with the places, ideas and stories that knit us together as a state and nation. There are yet many stories to tell, ideas to explore and people to discover and our lives are deeply enriched as we continue to add to that multi-hued quilt called America. E Pluribus Unum, from the many, one.