On New Year’s Eve, I watched with interest as Mayor Dennis Archer opened the Century Box, sealed by Mayor Charles Maybury on New Year’s Eve 1901. I was a graduate teaching assistant in Michigan history at Wayne State University and looked forward to the coming yearlong celebration of Detroit 300. I also had begun to sense a growing personal significance in the city’s motto: "Speramus Meliora; Resurget Cineribus." — "We hope for better days; It shall rise from its ashes," written by Fr. Gabriel Richard in the aftermath of the great fire of June 11, 1805. I thought of that as I dug in emotionally, and especially after September 11.
It is ironic that I attended seven weddings this year, two on April 7. No event speaks more to the hope that one’s days will henceforth be better than a wedding.
I attended many Detroit 300 events. I enjoyed the celebration of the past and forward gaze to a brighter future for a city that, like me, suffers a touch of melancholia. The high points of the summer were the Detroit Electronic Music Festival and the Concert of Colors. They exemplified the diversity we in America know we need, claim to want, but usually relegate to mere buzzword. And there was no trouble at either event.
You asked if we thought the world was really different in the "post-Sept. 11 Era." I don’t think so. The world was no different the day after you discovered that there was no Easter Bunny than it was the day before — just how you felt about it and yourself. Everything we know now was there for the knowing had we been willing to know.
In fact, I think that Speramus meliora; Resurget cineribus would be a better motto than "United We Stand." It speaks the truth of how we feel as a nation, as a city and, as I can attest, how many of us feel personally, without the frightening nationalistic chauvinism. The history of the 20th century alone should be warning enough about just how dangerous a sentiment that can become. A happy and hopeful new year to you all. Peter Mark Williams is a Wayne State University master’s student and a researcher for the Detroit African-American History Project Web
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