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Is motto ‘Live Free or Die’ too ‘in your face’?

A proposal to replace “love it” with New Hampshire’s official motto, “Live Free or Die,” which has been on the state's license plates for decades, has support in the Legislature. But some people want something a little less, well, ‘in your face.’
/ Source: The Associated Press

New Hampshire seems to be suffering from a bit of an identity crisis.

First, the Old Man of the Mountain — the stern, granite profile that graces license plates and quarters — fell off its cliff, crumbling to bits. Then, in an effort to bring some consistency to a jumble of highway welcome signs, the state moved to install new ones reading, “You’re going to love it here.”

But lots of people — including the governor — hate them.

A proposal to replace “love it” with the state’s official motto, “Live Free or Die,” which has been on New Hampshire’s license plates for decades, has widespread support in the Legislature. But some people would rather see something a little less, well, belligerent.

“I think that’s an in-your-face motto. It’s misinterpreted. It’s out of context. That’s not who we are,” said state Rep. Tim Robertson, a Democrat.

Robertson is among many who prefer an older version of the highway sign that advertised “Scenic New Hampshire.”

The “You’re going to love it here” slogan was developed by a Portsmouth ad agency a couple of years ago for the state’s tourism division and is widely used on its promotional materials. Communications manager Victoria Cimino said no one complained until the phrase popped up on the highway signs.

Highway welcome signs vary around the state. Some say, “Welcome to the Granite State.” Others offer a welcome in French and English. One older sign on Interstate 89 has “Live Free or Die.”

Proposing a toast in 1809
“Live free or die” is said to have been uttered during an 1809 toast by New Hampshire’s most distinguished Revolutionary War hero, Gen. John Stark. Many like the bite and the history behind the phrase. After all, this is a state that has a “Right of revolution” still written into its constitution.

If the House passes the bill requiring “Live Free or Die” to appear on all state highway welcome signs, Gov. John Lynch will sign it.

“It’s a part of who we are and part of our history, heritage and culture and I think that is what people should see as they come across our borders,” he said.

In keeping with another Yankee attribute — frugality — the governor has proposed covering the state’s six “love it” signs with a sheet metal panel featuring the state motto, rather than pay for new signs. The state’s 37 other welcome signs would be replaced as they age with ones featuring “Live Free or Die.”