Author explores symbols in the United States Shield that he believes offer guidance for the nation



By Cynthia Price

Author Michael Kanis is very happy with what he found out when curiosity compelled him to explore the real meaning of the Great Seal of the United States, and with the book he wrote as a result.

“The reaction to the book has been amazing,” the author from Holland (Michigan) says. “What I found is really surprising, because it’s such a hopeful, positive, forward-looking sort of constructive message that it just inspires you.”

Based on a trip to George Washington’s Revolutionary War encampment in Valley Forge Pa., Kanis decided to try and figure out what was in the minds of the original creators of the Great Seal, which is emblazoned across a very large bronze arch at Valley Forge’s Mount Joy.

It turned out that the seal was designed by the same three men who wrote the Declaration of Independence: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin.
In the inscriptions which are written on the reverse side of the seal, “Annuit Coeptis” and “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” and in the symbols found there, Kanis sees what he calls a foundational message to the people of the newly-forming United States.

While there is little controversy over “Novus Ordo Seclorum,” which is taken from the Latin poet Virgil - and means “a new order of things” - the other is more ambiguous. “Annuit coeptis” is usually taken to mean “approved of undertakings” or “favors our undertakings,” and a word like “Providence” is usually added as the agent of such favor or approval.

Kanis feels that the rest of the symbolism included with great deliberateness, along with a clue from the 1782 Congressional Record, lead to the belief that it was “a providential god” that the creators intended to say were in approval of the new United States.

The committee of three was not the only group who helped design the seal, but Kanis says he believes that they were responsible for its intent.

At a March 22 presentation at Bridge to Life Ministries, Kanis showed a slide which talked about Benjamin Franklin’s 13 virtues. Not only the virtues, which include self-restraint, order, moderation, and cleanliness, are important, but also the number 13.

“That did stand for the 13 colonies,” Kanis says, “but that’s only the superficial meaning. 13 is also one of those misunderstood and misrepresented symbols. People think of it as bad luck, but it really means new beginnings.”

Kanis’s research gave him to understand that the designers wanted to get across a lasting message about four values: Virtue, Freedom, Unity (the well-known words “E Pluribus Unum” means “Out of Many, One”) and Faith in a Providential God.

He says, “One analogy that I’ve used – it’s like, if you’ve ever been out on the water in a boat and thrown down the anchor so you could swim or whatever ... you don’t realize you’ve moved at all, but you start looking back and way back up the coast there’s a landmark you started with. And you say, ‘We drifted that far!’ So this is the kind of message that really brings us back to the foundational values from the formation of the country.”

Kanis says he is more like someone on a mission than an author, and indeed, he is still primarily a small business owner.

After getting his degrees from Indiana University, he originally worked for a Fortune 500 firm in technology and innovation, then started his own small wholesale distribution business in the building materials industry.

This allowed him to pursue the mysteries of the Great Seal as they led him to a variety of places around the globe. It also gives him the leisure, at times, to go around spreading the word about the book’ message, which is how he came to present at Bridge to Life Ministries, which is located on Van Wagoner Road in Spring Lake. The session was well-attended.

To find out more of what Kanis discovered on his quest, it is necessary to buy the book, which can be purchased from, from Schuler Books, or from Kanis’s own website,