One of my long-time personal heroes is Benjamin Franklin. I grew up in the town of Franklin, Indiana, and, riding in the car, we would drive past the statue of Ben that stood out in front of Franklin College’s Old Main. Similarly, the company my dad worked for at the time, Franklin Corrugated, had a silhouette of Franklin as its logo, and I saw the painted image on the front door of the building every time my mom went to pick him up. I grew up knowing the image, and even as a child, before I knew anything about his fascinating life, I knew that Ben Franklin had been a great, important man.
After I started school and began learning about the man Dr. Franklin had been, I began to understand why my home town revered the him so much. Franklin was an expert in every field that interested him. He was a real philosopher, after the way of Aristotle. He studied everything, he learned about everything, and he shared his knowledge as best he could. He was an expert, a statesman, a businessman, and a leader, and he worked hard to make people’s lives better.
Originally a printer, Franklin would frequently write articles, books, and pamphlets about whatever was on his mind, and then he would publish them for distribution. Many times he would use pseudonyms like Richard Saunders (Poor Richard) or Silence Dogood. If you’re a blogger, you realize that this is pretty much the same thing we do now with our websites like WordPress, LiveJournal, and Blogger. Except the things he wrote about were the important social issues, scientific discoveries, and cultural observations of his time. He used his writing to improve people’s lives and found American culture.
As a man, Dr. Franklin intended to always live virtuously, but he recognized that nobody is perfect, and he often strayed from the path of righteousness. Many view him as a hypocrite for encouraging people to be pious, monogamous, and hard working, while he often did the opposite. While he strove for these higher ideals, he also gave in to distractions. Still, despite his questionable recreational activities, his contributions worked for the greater good. Besides, guys who go drinking, whoring, and gambling are way more fun to hang out with.
Another thing I can appreciate about Benjamin Franklin was the sheer breadth of his interests. He paved the way for people like me who have lots of unusual hobbies. I’m sure he had a rich and eccentric checklist just like I do, but he was rich enough to do it all. When he saw that someone was trying to invent a hydrogen balloon, he helped fund it and got to ride in one. He spent his evenings flying kites through storm clouds to see if he could get it to have an electric charge. The guy was crazy! But in a good way.
Benjamin Franklin was in many ways what I’d like to be when I grow up. What about you, readers? Does anyone else look up to old Ben, or am I the only one? Who are your heroes?