The motto, along with the date May 20, 1775, is on the state coat of arms and the state seal.
Taken from Cicero's "On Friendship," the phrase can be literally translated "Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem so." Even further translated, and simply put, North Carolina official has it down as "To be, rather than to seem to be."
Until the General Assembly chose this motto, North Carolina did not have one, making it one of the only states (and the only one of the original thirteen) without one.
Check out the rest of North Carolina's state symbols. North Carolina's state symbols.