I think everyone should pick a Founding Father to admire, and mine is Benjamin Franklin.
All others are great choices, but I select Franklin because he inspires me. Like Franklin, I think a key to sustainability is that successful business people have an obligation to be civic and community leaders. So, over this Fourth of July weekend, I thought I would share some impressive background on my favorite Founding Father, who is also a sustainable thinker, and see if I can inspire those in Newport Beach.
I thought we could start with an overview of Franklin’s achievements, as outlined by Jack Uldrich in “Leader to Leader.” Franklin did “walk the walk and leave a good trail”:
- As a businessman, Franklin built America’s first media conglomerate by setting up printing and newspaper franchises throughout the American Colonies.
- As a citizen, he formed America’s first public library, its first fire department, and its first nonsectarian university, the University of Pennsylvania.
- As a scientist, he discovered electricity–an achievement that made him world famous and helped drive the Industrial Revolution. He also produced the Franklin stove, invented bifocals, conceived of daylight savings time, and was the first person to chart the Gulf Stream.
- As an author, he wrote America’s first best-seller, “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” and his autobiography has been credited with influencing everything from the philanthropy of Andrew Carnegie to Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”
- As a civil servant (postmaster general), he revolutionized the delivery of mail in America by establishing one-day service and home delivery.
- As a politician, Franklin had an active hand in creating the major documents of the Revolution–the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the alliance with France, and the peace treaty with England–and was the only Founding Father to sign all four.
- As a diplomat, he negotiated and secured America’s strategic alliance with France during the Revolutionary War–an act that arguably helped secure the eventual victory.
Franklin authored many quotes, and here’s a relevant one: “Printers are educated in the belief that when men differ in opinion, both sides ought to equally have the advantage of being heard by the public; and that when Truth and Error have fair play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter.”
So, one of Franklin’s principle methods of learning was to engage others in spirited debate.
Another quote: “More is to be learned with the ear than the tongue.”
Others are: “Early to be, early to rise makes men healthy, wealthy and wise,” and “Sleep with dogs, wake up with fleas.”
Franklin was also interested in the practical application of scientific knowledge. The accent is on the practical, not the crazy, way-out-there stuff we sometimes hear about . And that he based much of his work on scientific knowledge is akin to my desire to make decisions based on facts and data and not the emotion-driven “logic” we often see on important issues in our community
I admire Franklin’s entrepreneurial risk taking, even if it gives my wife some pause. At age 17, after leaving home, he established his own print shop. Three years later, he was one of Pennsylvania’s most prominent printers and by 26 had established America’s first franchise system of printing shops. He formed an organization called the Junto, a group of tradesman and artisans who were intent on self-improvement. Tell me we can’t use more of that type of thinking and success.
So, as you can see, I have a broad definition of words like green and sustainability. Thank you for taking the time to learn a little about my favorite Founding Father in hopes that it will, in some shape or form, inspire you to get out there in our community and utilize your talents to make this a better place to live. Never have we needed more volunteers and public-private partnerships, at least not in my lifetime.
You can email Jim Fitzpatrick at JimFitzEco@gmail.com.