The Motto

(Mini Memoir)

  "City of Kakata, photograph of main road near BWI, May 2012" by Thadk - Living in Kakata. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

"City of Kakata, photograph of main road near BWI, May 2012" by Thadk - Living in Kakata. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1979, while doing a USAID project in Liberia (in West Africa), I was stopped by two local policemen near the city of Kakata for speeding.

I dutifully gave them my US driver's license (which is valid in Liberia for 60 days). The first policeman tried to figure it out. The second one grabbed the license impatiently, scanned it, smiled, and said:

“Welcome to Liberia, Mr. Michael Deckard! I see from your driver's license that you are the Commissioner of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Monroe County, Indiana. Since we are in the same area of motor vehicle laws and regulations, we will let you off with a warning.”

I thanked the policeman profusely, apologized for my inappropriate behavior, and tried to sneak away quietly.

But the other policeman held on to the license, pointed to “Sivasailam Thiagarajan”, and spoke excitedly to his partner in Kpele.

After a few minutes, the first policeman smiled superiorly and responded to his partner in English (so I could appreciate his sophisticated knowledge).

“Sivasailam Thiagarajan,” he said “is obviously the Latin motto of the State of Indiana!”