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Esse quam videri, per Machiavelli and the Great Impostor

Stephen Colbert isn’t alone in kissing off the noble concept of North Carolina’s state motto.

“It is not…necessary for a prince to have all the above-named qualities,” Niccolo Machiavelli advised in “The Prince” (1532), “but it is very necessary to seem to have them.”

And then there was Ferdinand Waldo Demara (1921-1982), who out of self-described “pure rascality” skillfully masqueraded as a monk, a surgeon, a civil engineer, a PhD psychologist and a prison warden.

In “The Great Impostor” (1959), biographer Robert Crichton noted that in one episode Demara “made sure to cover every one of his papers with a note written on small, expensive, discreet stationery….

“At the top of the [embossed seal] was his name, at the bottom his profession of psychologist and in the middle his motto: Esse Quam Videri… the most splendid joke of all.”