Monday, July 04, 2005

Thanks to Franklin

Today, in honor of the US Independence Day, I want to say "thank you" to my favorite Founding Father -- Ben Franklin.

I've always loved Franklin's wit and sparkle, but it wasn't until I read Walter Isaacson's biography, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, that I got a deeper appreciation for the man and his contribution to the formation of this country. I'm not sure we'd be here today without him.

Sure, I've read biographies of Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Paul Revere. These men were essential to the birthing process as well, but primarily because they so distinctly represented particular points of view. Franklin was the great mediator, bringing all sides together and insisting that they talk to one another. Without his artistry, the sides would have continued in disagreement and disunity.

Franklin himself represented the common man. (Women were underrepresented all around.) He strove for the results that would improve the lives of the common man, and build a strong society of free-thinkers and entrepreneurs. He laid the foundation for individual self-determination and unlimited possibilities. As a single mom in the 21st century, I sit here the grateful recipient of these blessings.

So I really like the guy. Here are some passages from the Isaacson book:

"In both his life and his writings, Franklin became a preeminent proponent of [a] creed of tolerance."

"He believed in having the humility to be open to different opinions. For him that was not merely a practical virtue, but a moral one as well. It was based on the tenet, so fundamental to most moral systems, that every individual deserves respect. … Compromisers may not make great heroes, but they do make democracies."

"Franklin's belief that he could best serve God by serving his fellow man may strike some as mundane, but it was in truth a worthy creed that he deeply believed and faithfully followed."

"His focus tended to be on how ordinary issues affect everyday lives, and on how ordinary people could build a better society."

"…[H]e trusted the hearts and minds of his fellow leather-aprons more than he did those of any inbred elite. He saw middle-class values as a source of social strength, not as something to be derided. His guiding principle was a 'dislike of everything that tended to debase the spirit of the common people.' Few of his fellow founders felt this comfort with democracy so fully, and none so intuitively."

The book's a good read and in the spirit of the day. I still have to grab 1776 by David McCullough -- probably next year I'll write about that!

Happy Fourth!

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At 7/05/2005 02:58:00 AM, Blogger As always... Rachael said...

He's my favorite too - the wit is a big part of it... that and he was just such a renaissance man, writing, inventing, politicking... I'm gonna have to read this book. Thanks for the tip.


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