Now then: I’ve long been an admirer of the great Benjamin Franklin. I’m especially fond of his (apocryphal) quote, “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” He was America’s first international celebrity; a publisher, editor, scientist, bon vivant, lady’s man and diplomat. Truly a Renaissance man. And now, from Kite & Key Productions, is a video making the case that Franklin gave rise to the spirit and character of America. Excerpt:
It’s a real testimony to America’s obsession with our Founding Fathers that nearly 250 years later … we’re still fixated on these guys. Alexander Hamilton gets the biggest Broadway show of all time. John Adams gets a best-selling book and an HBO series. George Washington gets … ok, for real though, does anyone know what this is supposed to be?
Now, those guys definitely deserve the attention, but let us put in a word for the man who gave us our name here at Kite & Key…
[Yeah, think about it for a second. Ok, got it? Good. Now you can stop sending us emails about it.]
That’s right, our guy: Benjamin Franklin. Now, we’re not gonna tell you that he’s the greatest American ever — everyone knows that’s Dolly Parton
— but he may just have been the most American American ever.
Here’s what we mean: Chances are that almost every trait you think of as part of our national character … is something you can find in the life of Benjamin Franklin.
America is a country where you can rise from nothing to achieve great things, right? Well, that describes Ben pretty well.
One of 17 children, his formal education only went up to the age of 10 — although people ended up calling him Dr. Franklin, because he nevertheless got an honorary doctorate from Oxford, in addition to honorary degrees from Yale and Harvard. And at 17, he got his start when he ran away from Boston — violating an employment contract with his own brother — to start a new life in Philadelphia.
So yeah, he started his career as a fugitive … also pretty American.
And in short order he turned into a big success. Between his newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, and his best-selling book series, Poor Richard’s Almanac, Franklin did so well as a publisher that he was able to retire by the age of 42.
Benjamin Franklin wrote essays on farting. He recommended that young men married older women, citing “experience” and noting that “…all cats are grey in the dark.” When on a diplomatic mission to France during the Revolution, the widower Franklin reportedly cut quite a swath through the ladies of the court. He was a guy any red-blooded American today would love to set down and have a beer with.
The synopsis concludes:
So, yes, the father of our country was a strapping military man who carried himself with grace and dignity. The mind behind the Declaration of Independence belonged to a country gentleman with the heart of a poet. But the real seeds of our national character … go back to a fat dude with a mullet who just kinda did a little bit of everything. Which is about as American as it gets.
God, is this a great country or what?
It still is. It’s come a long ways since the days of Dr. Franklin, and not always in the right direction, but yes, it still is a great country.
Check out the video. It’s worth the watch.