The title of this post is the motto of The University of Texas. I’m pretty familiar with that motto, having received degrees and paychecks from UT. I only recently learned the motto’s context, a statement by Mirabeau Lamar, second president of the Republic of Texas. The motto is the Latin form of the opening phrase.
A cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy and, while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge and the only security that freemen desire.
I found Lamar’s statement in the essay Against Great Books (subscription required) in which the author comments on the “contradiction between the seals and mottos of older institutions and their more recent mission statements.” The marketing coming out of UT now emphasizes cultivating research to advance the economy more than cultivating virtuous minds to serve as guardians democracy.