Two bills that recently passed through Louisiana’s House Judiciary Committee proposed a change to the state’s motto and a new addition to the official state songs, as detailed in an article from The Daily Advertiser.
In early May, State Representative Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville, proposed HB 17, which would change the Louisiana state motto from “Union, Justice, Confidence” to “We live and die for those we love.” After much deliberation and well-supported arguments from the congressman, the proposal passed by a vote of 10-2.
Representative Nelson supported his bill by reminding House Judiciary Committee members that the current state motto was never established by a passed statute, thus making it the perfect time to instate a new motto that is “much more indicative of who we are as a people, what we believe and stand for as a people, and what sets us apart from everywhere else,” according to Nelson.
He went on to clarify that forms of the proposed new motto already exist on Louisiana law licenses and the very walls of the State Capitol building. When committee members passed the bill, they added that the new statute would not require any official state flags, buildings, or seals to be corrected as a result of the motto change as the bill would only ensure the new slogan as the official Louisiana motto going forward.
Nelson remarked, “we’re not going to tear up any carpets or tear up any flags. If we were going to build a new state capitol, this motto would be on the building instead. When new flags are bought, they will have the new motto.”
Later during the same Judiciary Committee meeting, Representatives Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, and Matthew Willard, D-New Orleans, presented HB351, which proposed an additional entry to Louisiana’s official state songs.
As of now, the state currently holds five titles as its official state song: Doralise Fontane’s “Give Me Louisiana,” Jimmie Davis’s “You Are My Sunshine” and “State March Song,” and Frances LeBeau’s “Gifts of the Earth.”
HB351 passed through the Judiciary Committee, and it proposes the addition of Louisiana musician Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” to the state records. Toussaint originally wrote the song and released it on the album of his of the same name in 1975.
Louisiana Zydeco musician and two-time Grammy Award winner Terrance Simien expressed his support for the inclusion of Toussaint’s song and lasting Louisiana legacy by saying “Allen Toussaint was a true Louisiana legend. I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the music world, and this song would be a great addition to our state songs. Allen was not only a great artist but also a great human being. I just can’t say enough about him and just want to ask you to consider this.”
The case for Allen Toussaint’s inclusion is strong, as the musician is a well-respected Louisiana musician who is a member of not only the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame but the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, andthe Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After hearing the strong case for “Southern Nights” and having Judiciary Committee members praise and uphold the Toussaint Legacy, HB351 passed without any objections.
Toussaint, a New Orleans-based musician who played alongside Elvis Costello, Professor Longhair, Dr. John, and Irma Thomas, originally wrote “Southern Nights” while he was in Houma, Louisiana and missing his family in New Orleans. The song’s lyrics give testament to the themes of family and longing that are well-known to the average Louisiana citizen. Furthermore, the images depicted in the song of “weeping willows [crying] for joy” and “precious beauty” noticed in the “southern skies” above are a part of a shared Louisiana imagery that all who call this state their home can relate to.
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