More than 150 students, distinguished guests and members of the press packed the Lakeview Room in the library on Feb. 26 to listen to an academic panel discuss different aspects of Benjamin Franklin’s life, his contributions to the founding of the United States and the betterment of society.
The Center for Constitutional Studies hosted a panel on “Benjamin Franklin’s Intellectual World,” a newly published book edited by Dr. Paul E. Kerry and UVU President Matthew Holland that illustrates the inner workings Ben Franklin’s mind.
Speakers included Dr. Rick A. Griffin, director of the Center; Dr. Kerry; President Holland; and Roy E. Goodman of the American Philosophical Society, who also wrote the book’s afterword. The book features the collective work and essays of several scholars.
“There is a lot for students to learn from essays,” Holland said.
Holland provided some initial reflections on Franklin and explained the book project began when he and colleague Kerry began having discussions on the founding of America and political philosophy while at Brigham Young University. A special scholarly conference followed soon after at the University of Cambridge in England.
Among all the American Founders, Holland said, Franklin seems like he would be the most likely to love UVU.
“He was fun, playful, but also very studious, always learning and intellectually serious,” Holland said.
Kerry spoke on Franklin’s contributions to America’s unique form of government, a constitutional-republic and his ideals for easily accessible and diverse education. Franklin envisioned a place of learning for all peoples of the earth “to bring about a creative and generative end,” Kerry said.
Kerry described Franklin as being “all things to all people,” a man who was firmly dedicated to a philanthropic life.
Kerry said Franklin believed a republic couldn’t survive without public virtue, deriving primarily from a moral education starting in the family. Franklin also believed a republic is dependent on some personal sacrifice and he was “a great advocate for civic engagement.”
The event was also marked with a special exhibit at the Center containing a gallery of Franklin pop-culture memorabilia provided by Goodman. Attendees and students were invited to view, among other things, Franklin’s print shop and personal copy of U.S. Constitution with his handwritten notes on each section.
Goodman stressed the importance for people to know who Benjamin Franklin was.
“He wasn’t a president but was immensely influential around the world,” Goodman said. “His intent was to do good in every area of life and strongly believed everyone should have the equal right to voice their opinion.”
The exhibit will remain open until March 19 at the Center for Constitutional Studies, located on the third floor of the UVU Library.