Is it time to Change the Great Seal of California?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

With the movement toward change that some interests and groups are trying to impose upon the country from using different language to tearing down monuments or painting over historical murals that represent a different era, I wondered how long the Great Seal of California would survive as is.

The seal serves much like a notarial seal on civic documents. It is impressed on official California documents dealing with commissions, pardons and papers signed by the governor. California’s Great Seal was originally created and adopted at the 1849 state Constitutional Convention and has had only minor design changes over the years, the last when the Seal was standardized in 1937. In these ideological driven times, that could mean an overhaul of the Seal could be coming. 

The idea for re-considering the depictions on California’s Great Seal came up after reading Peggy Noonan’s weekend column in the Wall Street Journal. She hotly complained about the changes “coming at us from the social and sexual justice warriors who are renaming things and attempting to control the language in America.” One item she pointed to “is the latest speech guide from the academy, the Inclusive Communications Task Force at Colorado State University.”  The guide said people should not be called “American” because “This erases other cultures.”

Many aspire to be Americans. E PLurubus Unum—out of many one. That motto has carried this country to great heights. It was meant to unite people. Too many current efforts at changing language are dividing people. 

But that’s the tenor of the times we live in so let’s take a look at The Great Seal of the State of California.

The most prominent figure on the great Seal is that of Minerva, Roman Goddess of wisdom and war. Given the state’s effort to create gender neutrality, if Minerva is even to remain on the Seal, Minerva’s status might be challenged. She is also carrying a spear. Hardly in line with the California value of reducing access to weapons. It must go. The grizzly bear should probably be kicked off the seal as well. That’s California history. No grizzly bear has been seen in the state since the early 1920s.

The grape vines and sheaf of grain on the seal stand for wine production and agriculture and should remain. But what about other industries that have exploded in the state over the last 150 years?

A number of sailing ships appear on the Seal representing commerce. Remove some of the sailing ships and add an airplane and a space craft.

The movie and entertainment industry has been big for the state. How about putting the Hollywood sign on the mountains depicted on the Seal? There’s a structure on the Seal that is supposed to represent Fort Point in San Francisco. Removing it would eliminate the geographic tilt to the north represented on the Seal to assure that all regions of California belong.

Perhaps we should add a figure representing Silicon Valley. That figure must reflect California’s diversity, of course.

Should the miner working his pick axe even remain on the Seal? That’s history, and history is being banished. But there is a strong reason to keep the miner because of the state’s beginnings. Given the governor’s recent apology to Native Americans for the way they were treated by early Californians, a legitimate addition would be a Native American figure. 

The state motto Eureka, Greek for “I found it!” has a prominent place on the Seal. Californians speak many languages. Look at the number of different languages spoken by students in the Los Angeles schools. Maybe a word or two in other languages would be demanded by some.

Finally, 31 stars appear on the Seal signifying California as the 31st state admitted to the Union. But California sees itself as a leader of other states. You hear that from state officials all the time. The country will follow where California leads. One of the stars of the 31 should be made larger and brighter to reflect this prideful feeling.

Those are some suggestions. I’m sure you have others. Given the rapid change from the old standards it’s probably wise to get a head start on thinking how to re-do The Great Seal of the State of California.

Here’s one other possible direction to go with the Seal: Leave well enough alone. 

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