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Diplomacy in Action

Chapter 3: Group Focus Session 4: Ben's Story


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Group Size: Class or Seminar setting.

Time Needed: One Class Period - 45-60 minutes

Physical Set-up: Normal Classroom setting, groups of three preferred.
 

Materials: Recording material, blackboard, whiteboard or flip chart, student journals, handouts: Ben, Virtues Activity Sheet>
 

Goal: To identify values and virtues.

Procedure: Meet & Greet: Tell students you are going to read them a story about a man named BEN. Ask them to guess all the Ben's they can in 30 seconds. Reveal that it is Ben Franklin. Ask them to list all the facts they can about Ben Franklin in 30 seconds.

Read Ben's Story from handout.

Ask students if they agree with the author's conclusion. "Franklin had not failed at his virtues. He had succeeded at each of his twelve virtues. He failed at a virtue that was not his, a virtue that had been given to him by someone else. Franklin failed at a virtue that he did not value. He failed at doing something someone else valued and tried to suggest to him as a value."

Distribute Activity sheet. In groups of three ask students to discuss, list, and then define their own virtues.

Discuss Franklin's Dilemma on the activity sheet. Students are given an opportunity to have another's value suggested for them. Not always is a suggested value a guaranteed failure. Often a value must be experienced and tried before being discarded. Franklin tried to be humble for much of his life before finally giving up on humility shortly before his death.


Follow up: Ask class for summary, observations and conclusions

Reflection: Have students copy their activity sheet Virtues & Definitions into their journal. Have students choose one of their virtues and decide one thing they can to this week to implement that virtue.

Ben's Story

Think if you will who Ben Franklin was, but even more importantly, what was his legacy?

Benjamin Franklin was an author, a printer, an inventor, a father, a politician, the first American Ambassador to France. He invented bifocals, swim flippers, lightening rods, and the Franklin stove. He founded a public library, a hospital, an insurance company and a fire department. He helped with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He wrote an auto biography in the middle of his life and shortly before his death in his 80's he completed his memoirs. Franklin was truly a renaissance man. He was one of the greatest citizens and thinkers the world has seen before or since. But Franklin was not always a great or successful man. At the age of 17 he ran away from home in Boston, estranged from his family because of an argument he had with his brother.

Franklin tried in business and failed, not once but twice. He was the father and single parent of an illegitimate son whose mother abandoned the child to Franklin unable an unwilling to live with Franklin and the child.

As a young adult Franklin was by almost any measure and especially his own measure a dismal failure. His life was confused, difficult and not al all satisfying to Franklin or anyone else. He decided to change.

Benjamin Franklin sat down and made a list. The list was of twelve characteristics, values and virtues to which he aspired. He called his list "Virtues". The list of virtues looked like this.

Franklin's List of Virtues

1. Temperance
2. Silence
3. Order
4. Resolution
5. Frugality
6. Industry
7. Sincerity
8. Justice
9. Moderation
10. Cleanliness
11. Tranquility
12. Chastity

When he completed his list of the virtues to which he aspired, Franklin wrote a brief sentence describing each of the virtues and what it meant to him. He did not want there to be any confusion about what each of these works meant. His definitions of his virtues then looked like this....

Franklin's List of Defined Virtues

1. Temperance - eat not to dullness; drink not to elation.
2.
Silence - Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
3. Order - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
4. Resolution -Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
5.
Frugality -Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
6.
Industry - Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
7.
Sincerity -Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.
8.
Justice - Wrong none by doing injuries; or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
9.
Moderation - Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
10.
Cleanliness - Tolerate no un cleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
11.
Tranquility - Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.
12.
Chastity - Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or anther's peace or reputation.

Franklin then took his list to a respected friend who happened to be a Quaker. Franklin explained to his Quaker friend that he, Franklin was disappointed in the progress in his life to this point and that he intended to turn his life around. From now on Franklin would live his life according to his list of virtues. Each day he would read the list and each week he would focus on a different virtue. Repeating the process over and over again until he had become one with his virtues.

Franklin's Quaker friend asked him one question.

"Ben are you serious? Because you sure aren't these things now."

Franklin explained that he was indeed serious and that he knew he was far from these virtues now but he aspired to become one with the twelve virtues he had listed and described.

His Quaker friend went on then to say.

"Ben, if you are serious you need to add a thirteenth virtue.  Humility.  Because you don't have any."

Franklin thought about the advice of his friend and true to the recommendation added a thirteenth virtue. 

13. Humility

Franklin then went on to define humility for his own understanding, and true to his less than humble self Ben Franklin defined humility, thsu.
 

13. Humility - Emulate Christ and Socrates in all things.

Now there is a truly humble man.  He would just emulate Christ and Socrates in all things.  True humility.  Well, perhaps not really!

Not very humble; but true to his word and his intention, Franklin set about to reorder his life.  Each day he would read his list and each week he would focus on a different aspect of his life repeating the process over and over and over again.

The rest is history.  Franklin went on to become one of the most productive, successful and self-actualized people in all of history.  He knew what mattered most.  That was how he could set about being an author, a printer, an inventor, a father, a politician, the first American Ambassador to France, the inventor of bifocals, swim flippers, lightening rods, hundreds of other things and the Franklin stove and how he could found a public library, a hospital, an insurance company and a fire company and help to write the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

But did you know that is not the end of the story?

In his memoirs shortly before his death Franklin was reflecting on the story of his virtues (which he told in his auto biography written mid life) and he noted that he had come to feel a oneness with each of his 12 virtues. When he thought of the 13th virtue he realized that he simply was not humble.

Franklin had failed at his 13th virtue.  Or had he?  Franklin failed at his 13th vitue. Why?  Was the most difficult virtue on his list the last? Or was there another reason?


The answer was of course simple. Franklin had not failed at his virtues. He had succeeded at each of his twelve virtues. He failed at virtue that was not his, a virtue that had been given to him by someone else. Franklin failed at a virtue that he did not value. He failed at doing something someone else valued and suggested to him as a value.


Franklin's Virtues

1. Temperance - eat not to dullness; drink not to elation.

2. Silence -Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order - Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution - Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality - Make no expense but to do good to others or your self; that is, waste nothing.

6. Industry - Lose not time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity - Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.

8. Justice - Wrong none by doing injuries; or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation - Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness - Tolerate no un cleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

11. Tranquility - Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. Chastity - Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

13. Humility - Emulate Christ and Socrates in all things.


Do you have a Franklin's Dilemma of an inappropriate virtue? Is there a virtue that is not owned by you but someone else? List and define it here. Is this good or bad? Discuss is with your partners.



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