Ask Art #5 — The Motto

Ask Art #5 — The Motto

Only eternity will reveal how many lives were changed, hearts inspired, and works completed because of the motto of Charlotte Mason. Four powerful verbs — I am, I can, I ought, I will — recited, contemplated, and implemented for generations. But what is the origin of this remarkable motto? Did Miss Mason make it up? Did she change it? And was it further developed and expanded in her lifetime and beyond?

These are some of the questions I answer in “Ask Art #5 — The Motto.” Join us as Mariana Mastracchio and I discuss the fascinating and intricate origin, history, and development of the motto, and touch on its wide and varied impact. No dry and dusty account, this is a living story of four powerful verbs, along with suggestions for how to apply them in your own life and in the lives of those you hold dear.


Home Education p. 330

Parents and Children p. 251


In Memoriam by Alfred Tennyson

The Ladder of St. Augustine” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Badge And The Motto” by Elsie Kitching

Habits for Life” by Art Middlekauff

Poems Read in This Episode

L’Umile Pianta, July 1906, p. 45, by Anonymous


I am a student full of fire,

And keen the youthful mind to fill,

To guide aright the young Desire,

It is my duty—and I will!

I can with never-failing tact

All furious tempers promptly still,

All evil habits counteract,

And so because I can—I will!

Dauntless and bold I start a school

With every subject freely taught,

Controlled by scientific rule,

Because I am, and can, and ought!

And when they ask the reason why

Against all odds I struggle still?

Nobly I make the proud reply,—

I am, I can, I ought, I will.

L’Umile Pianta, November, 1918, p. 16, by H. J. Hart


I am—what God alone doth truly know.
I pray that He will of His goodness teach
Me to myself that onward I may go
And better, higher, ways of life may reach.

I ought—He gave a gentle voice to me,
Conscience, which whispers to my wavering soul,
Helps me the wrong way and the right to see
And ever to press onward to the goal.

I can—what Conscience bids do, and I will.
He Who did unto me His warning give
And makes me right to see, doth still
Give unto me the power aright to live.

I will—God helping—always choose the right,
The old Saint’s words my guide and watchword still
And call to mind when weakening in the fight
I am, I ought, I can, I will.

One Reply to “Ask Art #5 — The Motto”

  1. The poem idea is so neat!
    I’ll definitely try to write my own and encourage my boys to write too!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *