Benjamin Franklin

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

In this day and time, most millennials and Gen Z probably know Ben Franklin best for his picture on the $100 bill.  What has been lost is that he was a gifted writer, publisher, diplomat, inventor, scientist and even a swimmer.  

He is the only person to have signed all four documents which created the United States, including the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Treaty of Alliance with France, and the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary war with Great Britain in 1783.  But he was never President.

Even though he only had two years of formal education, he was the publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanack from which came the saying:  “Early to bed, early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise.”  His writing contributions included contributing to the drafting of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. 

Ben was also a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame which grew out of his swimming in Boston and he even invented wooden paddles which he used to propel himself in the Charles River. 

Another invention came out of his musical talent. He invented a glass armonica which became popular with Beethoven, Strauss and Mozart who created music for it. He even created a phonetic alphabet because he was annoyed by the inconsistencies of English spelling. 

As many other founders, Franklin has been caught up in the Cancel Culture movement to erase historical figures based solely on their connection to slavery. In later life, Ben Franklin staunchly opposed slavery and became an abolitionist. He freed his own slave and demanded that his children free their slaves in order to inherit anything from him in his will.

Not bad for a man who at age 16 set out with only 4 rolls of bread and 25 cents (2 shillings) in his pocket plus the clothes on his back. One wonders how he achieved so much, and the real answer comes from his autobiography:  his father’s influence on his life. We can learn from that. 

The world has changed a lot since the 1700’s in terms of family values.  I have already written about the devastating impact that the lack of fathers has on their children. The statistics are grim. Since 1960, the number of unwed mothers has gone from 5% to 41% in 2015 according to the Center for Disease Control. 

At the same time, children raised in fatherless homes has tripled for white households and doubled for black households during the same time period according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For white families, the number of fatherless households was 18.3% in 2010, and a shocking 48.5% for blacks. That’s almost half.

The question that comes to mind is how Benjamin Franklin’s father influenced him to greatnessand how we can use those principles today? Fortunately, Ben Franklin’s autobiography details three things every father or mentor can do for the next generation.  They are not complicated.

First, Ben’s father helped him with his homework. Ben was a gifted writer and worked at a print shop, and his father, Josiah, “offered constructive criticism to help his son’s writing.”  I resonated with that because my father did the same with me in high school, and I, in turn, have helped each of my children with their writing.

Second, Ben’s father educated him about life and instilled good values in him.   Ben wrote: “I remember well his [father] being frequently visited by leading people, who consulted him for his opinion on the affairs of the town or of the church he belonged to.”  Dinner often included some “sensible friend” to converse with and Ben’s father would select an ingenious topic to discuss.

“By this”, Ben writes, “he turned our attention to what was good, just and prudent in the conduct of life.” 

Third, he helped his son for his future career. Ben had no interest in becoming a candle maker like his father.  His father realized that and made the effort to introduce Ben to different trades that were available. Ben realized he loved tools, and his career ultimately led him to the printing trade.

When I was a young college student trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, my father contacted some of his friends in different occupations and set up meetings for me to talk to them and find out what their careers looked like from the inside. I met an accountant, a stock broker, and an expert in public utilities. 

It opened my eyes to possible careers different from my father and was extremely helpful. I am grateful for his help.

Many in the millennial generation have married and started families. As a father or a mentor, your challenge is to come alongside and help them understand their value as parents and how they can help shape their children’s lives. 

As Ben Franklin notes, you only have to do three things.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  You are in a position to help your mentee on at some of the things that helped Ben Franklin to greatness. It is an invaluable investment in their future.

FURTHER READING 11 Fun Facts About Ben Franklin History.com

The Autobiography or Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin – History.com

Why Fathers Matter: 3 Things Ben Franklin’s Father Did to Raise Him to Greatness – Epoch Times

WORSHIP:  This We Know – Vertical Church

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