Benjamin Franklin: Americas Model for Servant Leadership

681 Words2 Pages

Benjamin Franklin: Americas Model for Servant Leadership

In Benjamin Franklin's civic pride and his projects for the improvement of Philadelphia, we see another aspect of the philosophy of doing good. At the same time we may recognize the zeal for reform that has long been a characteristic of American life. In his attention to the details of daily living, Franklin shows himself as the observant empiricist. As the successful engineer of ways to make the city he loved cleaner, safer and more attractive he continually sponsored new institutions that were proof that the applications of reason to experience were fruitful in the real world.

"Human felicity," he wrote, "is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day." Franklin typifies that aspect of the American character that is attentive to small details as well as over-all great plans. The practical idealism of America lies in our capacity to work for our ideals step by step, to recognize that the perfect world is never achieved but that we may approach it gradually by a creative attentiveness to each aspect of life around us.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN'S religious creed held that the best service to God is to be good to man. He leaned to the views of the "Dissenters" of his day, notably Joseph Priestley and Richard Price, who preached a doctrine somewhat like present Unitarianism. A moralist, he taught that man's soul is immortal and that man's conduct in this world will determine his condition in the next; so he made a creed of virtue, based on integrity and good deeds-man must help himself and others.

In the American tradition Franklin stands as a man who preached thrift, frugality, industry and enterprise as the "way to wealth." He grew to maturity in an American tradition that was older than he was, according to which such virtues as thrift and industry were not enough to bring a man success; he had also to practice charity and help his neighbor. Wealth was a token of esteem of the Divine Providence that governs men's affairs, and thus the accumulation of riches was not sought for its own sake alone. Furthermore, wealth and position, being marks of the divine favor, conferred an obligation; a successful man was a "steward," holding the world's goods in trust for the less fortunate. This "Protestant ethic" was a common denominator of Calvinistic Boston where Franklin spent his boyhood and of Quaker Philadelphia where he grew to young manhood.

Open Document