Words of wisdom

Benjamin Franklin spoke with elementary students at St. Edmond Catholic School Thursday.

The founding father chose as his avatar Buzz Powers, a local actor, for telling the 21st Century youth about his fascinating life and role in creating America.

The venue for his appearance, appropriately, was the school’s library.

Franklin spoke about his young life, being the 15th of 17 children, working for his brother and then starting his own printing press and publishing “Poor Richard’s Almanac.”

“You’ve probably talked about that in class,” he said. “We had a lot of things in there, little sayings that I would have like ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes man healthy, wealthy and wise.’ And this one has something to do with money: ‘A penny saved is a penny earned.'”

Franklin’s appearance announced Money Smart Week, April 20-27.

According to Mike Biedenfeld, Fort Dodge United Bank of Iowa vice president, the week will feature a series of free seminars sponsored by Fort Dodge businesses and feature a program by a member of the Federal Reserve.

“Ben Franklin is the spokesperson,” he said. “He represents the values of being money smart, in terms of people being economic with their money.”

Franklin, speaking to the students, explained he was the inventor of bifocal lenses, swimming flippers and founder of the first public library. He also pioneered the use of electricity.

“You’ve heard of the experiment I did with the kite, with the string and a key?” he said. “Well, that wasn’t actually me. My nephew, I had him do it because I wasn’t sure I wanted to mess with electricity. But because of those things, we now have electric lights.”

After retiring at age 42, Franklin spent his life in service to his country, helping to write the Declaration of Independence and advocating for a national symbol.

“John Adams and Thomas Jefferson thought it should be the eagle,” Franklin said. “I didn’t really care for the eagle because it eats carrion. I thought we should go with the turkey. I lost.”

Franklin spoke also about his colleagues Jefferson and Adams.

“They were both very brilliant men,” he said. “They ended up being president, both of them. Interestingly enough, they died on the exact same day. They were rivals at the time, they didn’t get along very well. And they both died on July 4th.”

One student asked Franklin how he was able to live to be 307 years old.

“It was clean living,” he said. “Good diet. Stayed away from alcohol, drugs and tobacco.”

Another asked why Franklin did not have a “funny voice.”

“I have been around for 307 years, so I have adjusted to modern language,” he answered.

Afterwards, students were offered the chance to participate in a Money Smart Week poster contest and an essay contest. They were also given illustrated copies of “Be Money Smart.”