Archive: ‘Franklin’ Encourages Grads To Practice Thrift Yet Avoid Miserliness

Benjamin Franklin re-enactor Lloyd Wheeler told a group of more than 250 graduating seniors that they should seek to cultivate “the habit of frugality but resist becoming a miser” during a special presentation sponsored by the James Madison Institute (JMI) at the Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) Convention in Orlando.

The convention, which was held at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando in late May, brought together more than 17,000 homeschoolers from all over the state.   In addition to speaking to this year’s FPEA graduates, “Benjamin Franklin” also took part in a living history scavenger hunt (patterned after A Night at the Museum), offered words of encouragement to teen entrepreneurs selling their wares outside the exhibit hall, and interacted with convention-goers at a special exhibit featuring a replica of the Liberty Bell.

Wheeler told the FPEA students that Franklin learned the value of thrift early in life after overpaying for a tin whistle that had captured his imagination.  Facing the taunts of those who ridiculed him for his foolish purchase, young Ben Franklin vowed to become a wise money manager.  And he not only accomplished this, but Franklin ended up becoming America’s foremost apostle of thrift through his writings in Poor Richard’s Almanack and The Way to Wealth.

Wheeler has been making public appearances as Benjamin Franklin for JMI during the past year as part of a “thrift education” project funded by the John Templeton Foundation.  In addition to these historical performances, JMI’s project includes a 12-page supplemental curriculum, All About the Benjamins, which is designed for use especially during “Thrift Week,” an annual celebration which begins each year on Ben Franklin’s Jan. 17 birthday.  To date, more than 135,000 Florida students have received copies of JMI’s thrift curriculum.

At the FPEA Convention, the James Madison Institute not only distributed hundreds of copies of All About the Benjamins, but also passed out two fun items: Madison4President campaign buttons and a “12 Steps to Fiscal Sobriety” palm card for recovering “spendaholics” in government. This 12-step program begins with an admission “that we could not restrain ourselves when it came to spending other people’s money” and ends with a commitment “to practice thrift in all our affairs.”

William Mattox is a resident fellow at the James Madison Institute and the project manager for All About the Benjamins.