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Editor shares 'Old Ben Thoughts'
Random Thoughts - April 21
Random Thoughts by Wendell Smith

MUSCODA - Did you watch the recent Ken Burns Public Television special about the life of Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of our nation?

As always, the Burns production – two evenings long – is a fascinating story as it tells about the life of a hero and a statesman in many ways. Franklin was also an inventor, including a more efficient heating stove- a scientist, proving that lightning is electronic- plus a printer and writer for an assortment of publications.

The Burns production places Franklin among the most important of the “Founding Fathers,” nearly an equal to General George Washington.

Franklin’s birthplace was in Boston on January 17, 1706. He was born into a family as the youngest of 17 children. He started working with his parents at age 10, in their candle making shop. While in school it is said he was an excellent reading student, fair in writing and poor in arithmetic.

During his adult life he did many things, including growing cabbage. He became a skilled printer and writer and eventually owned his own print shop. He also was a socialite who convinced the French to help the Colonies during the Revolutionary War. He was self taught in the French, German, Italian, Spanish and Latin languages.

Franklin helped write and then signed both the American Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States. He is buried in Philadelphia. His gravestone reads simply: “Benjamin Franklin – Printer.”

That makes me feel sort of proud that I have a vague vocational connection to such a famous man.

But then I remember my grade school years when I was told that Franklin was dumb enough to stand outside during a thunderstorm, flying a kite, with a metal key attached.

And if it’s true that he was not good in grade school arithmetic, I may have another connection. During my high school years I did not like studying algebra and geometry. In fact, back in 1954, when I was graduated from the University of Nebraska School of Journalism, I may have been the first student to receive that degree without a single credit of college mathematics.

With all of that, and help from filmmaker Ken Burns, I feel just a tiny bit closer to Old Ben.