Ben Franklin's 300th Birthday

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Three hundred years ago today, Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, but colonial Boston was much too conservative to hold young Ben.

Barely out of short pants, Franklin was out in the world — inventing Poor Richard's Almanac and lightening rods, inventing lending libraries and allies in revolution, inventing the odometer and bifocals - and a nation, a national character... "A Republic," he quipped, "if you can keep it."

Ben Franklin lived large and long. He was a founder and a rascal, a fierce enemy of tyranny, and a radical egalitarian. That twinkle in his eye still speaks to us today.

Hear about the life of this remarkable Founding Father, and what he would make of America now.


Edmund Morgan, professor emeritus of history, Yale University. President Bill Clinton awarded him the 2000 National Humanities Medal. He is chairman of the board of The Benjamin Franklin Papers at Yale University and author of "Benjamin Franklin" and "The Genuine Article: A Historian Looks at Early America."Philip Dray, author of "Stealing God's Thunder: Benjamin Franklin's Lightning Rod and the Invention of America." He is also author of "At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America," which was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.;
Stacy Schiff, author of "A Great Improvisation : Franklin, France, and the Birth of America."

This program aired on January 17, 2006.


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