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The First American

September 20, 2010

Aside from being one of the most influential of our nation’s Founding Fathers, Benjamin Franklin is often called The First American. Among countless titles and accolades, Franklin became the first president of the American Philosophical Society (1743), first US Postmaster (1775-1776), American Ambassador to France (1776-1785), governor of Pennsylvania (1785-1788). Franklin was also a printer, inventor, scientist, statesman and politician. Franklin experimented with theories of electricity becoming a pioneer in the quest for electrical power. He also helped form the University of Pennsylvania.

Although clearly becoming a noted polymath of his time, Franklin was a reasonable man. The aphorisms Franklin published in his annual publication, Poor Richard’s Almanack, truly imply he was both practical and sensible. His most famous quote, as we know it today, is probably “A penny saved is a penny earned.” This seems completely appropriate considering Franklin is pictured in the American 100 dollar bill. His taste for satire can be seen in another one of his familiar quotes “Fish and visitors stink in three days.”

My impression of Franklin is that although he had a sense of humor, he also wanted to be taken seriously even at an early age. Franklin began living by thirteen virtues at the ripe age of twenty although he practiced only one virtue at a time. The thirteen virtues, as listed in his autobiography, are temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility. Franklin further elaborated on each one. This is impressive and admirable considering his age at the time.

How many twenty-year-olds have the insight to want to live by such wonderful virtues? They could be, in part, possibly responsible for the many Franklin’s many achievements and accomplishments.

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