tv Benjamin Franklins Legacy CSPAN July 9, 2016 8:52pm-10:01pm EDT
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legacy of benjamin franklin, whose methods and passion for science epitomized what he calls, quote, america's national character, end quote. the american historical society hosted this program. it is a little over one hour. smith: the robert h lecture in democracy. we are proud, indeed, to partner with london's regimen franklin house in bringing this lecture to our institution. is then franklin house only surviving former residence of benjamin franklin. today, a marvelous museum and educational center that inspires and motivates young westerners as well as general visitors through the example of our great american founder and innovator. the museum is a georgian house very craven street,
centrally located, so on your next visit to london, i know you will want to stop there. glad, indeed, to recognize and congratulate the museum staffing director, who is with us this evening, representing benjamin franklin house. thank you. [applause] i am also very glad to recognize and thank for all efforts as well as for benjamin franklin house, benjamin franklin house trustee anita. thank you. [applause] louise: some of you may be wondering about the names, including the auditorium and the house. know, h smith, as you may was among much else a visionary developer of crystal city just
outside of washington, d.c., which is today one of the most young and hip neighborhoods, and robert smith was above all else a grateful american. he did an enormous amount of good for institutions, like the benjamin franklin house. theas he who first brought institutions together, and i know that he would have been really, really pleased to know that tonight's lecture is taking ,lace here in this auditorium which he very much envisioned as being as we are using it this evening, for a lecture that will surely engage us in the enjoyment in learning about american history. "surely" surely say because walter isaacson, the author, is here. we are pleased to welcome him back. mr. isaacson is the president and ceo of a non-protestant --
nonpartisan studies institute. during his prolific to rear as a journalist, mr. isaacson served as chairman and ceo of cnn and as the editor of "time" magazine. he is the author of many books, including "benjamin franklin, a how," and "the innovators," they created the digital revolution. lasts about anam hour, it will include a question and answer session. there will be no formal book signing this evening, but the books will be available in the museum kiosk, just outside the auditorium. as always, iin, would like to ask that anything that makes a noise like a cell phone is switched off, and now, please do join me in welcoming walter isaacson to the stage. [applause]
walter: thank you very much. it is wonderful to be back, especially on behalf of benjamin franklin house, and to talk about all of the biology subjects i have ever written, the one that is my most favorite, of course, dr. benjamin franklin. cia andseeing mar michelle sitting together. being over in london quite a bit, i realized the only house still standing in which benjamin franklin lived was on claven street, near trafalgar square, and it was not renovated at all. it was pretty much an abandoned place, and there were people trying to make it into a place for benjamin franklin. , allpened to know robert
of the great founders, and i said to him, let's have breakfast, because he had an area which is maybe what we four blocks from benjamin franklin house, and he agreed to be one of the major funders. be on my happened to board at the aspen institute, said never again will i allow you to have breakfast with my father, but we do believe in anita, who is on the board at the benjamin franklin house, that it was a wise investment, and dr. franklin would thank you. franklin,out benjamin his relevance now as well as an innovator, but i will do it, if you do not mind, as storytelling. i will go to the stories about then franklin and try to draw the lessons from them. i thought about making it "here's 12 things you need to franklin," butn when i grew up, my mentor said
there are two types of people that come out of louisiana, preachers and storytellers, and he said, by god, be a storyteller, because there are too many preachers, and it is a good way to get the story across. benjamin franklin was born in boston, the son of an immigrant, and as a son of a puritan, he was going to be his father's tithe to the lord. send himr was quite to to harvard to be a minister, and that was a long time ago, but benjamin franklin was not exactly cut of the cloth. at one point, they were salting away the provisions for the winter at his father's house, and he said to his father, how about if i say grace over them right now, and we can get it done with once and for all for the entire year? so his father realized it would be a waste of money to send them
to harbor to be a minister, and so, he did the next best thing or perhaps something even better, which is he a practice -- he apprenticed benjamin to his older brother, james, at the newspaper, so benjamin franklin, without a formal education, and i hate to mention this, because sometimes i get asked to give red tuition speeches, and it is very difficult, because whether it is steve jobs or albert einstein or regimen franklin or bill gates, they all run away or drop out before they graduate. so benjamin franklin is apprenticed to his brother, and he teaches himself by pulling down the books from the shelves of his brothers publishing house and bookstore in boston, and it is addison and steel, essays, and "the spectator," and applications from the great
london, and what franklin does is he chops them all up and moves the paragraphs around, and then tries to put a better together in order so he can teach himself, and he said that he was never quite sure that he became a great writer, but, in fact, what he does is he becomes the best homespun humor writer i think in american history. wasbrother, who i mentioned an older brother, and being an older brother would not let franklin right for the newspaper, soap franklin ends up writing under a pseudonym. he put a pen name on it, and he slips the essays he does under the door of his brother's print, and his brother and friends running the printshop have no idea where it is coming from, but it is this woman, and franklin has put on the persona of a widowed, elderly woman
living in the countryside of massachusetts and writing these essays, the triumph of the imagination, a kid not 15 years old and who never left austin but writing in this voice, -- butr left austin -- boston, writing in this voice. saying, let me introduce myself. i am a woman of strong national sentiment. i really reject the notion of aivilege, and i have protective feel about all of my rights. that is how you know i am an american, and it really is that sort of authentic front to your voice of poking fun at the pretensions of the elite and the type of establishment, poking and those mathers
that are running boston, it over and over again in the first set of essays, you see her kind of doing this type of humor, saying that she was thinking of sending her nephew to harvard, but it only turns out blockheads, who know how to enter a room jen t lee, and she says that is something they will learn us school,ely at dancing y, and she says that is something they will learn less expensively at dancing school, so she would send them. and they cut the story a little bit. benjamin franklin actually runs away. apprenticeship. he has five to be an apprenticeship for his brother for seven years, and she run -- he runs away to philadelphia, and this is very important because boston was very you
craddock with very little separation from the churches and the government -- was very theocratic, with very low separation from the churches and government. but philadelphia, there were more presbyterians and the invisibles and jews and freed all worked they together. this place called market street, withall came to shop, and brotherly love, you saw a diversity of people, people who are immigrants, including the anglican and physical aliens, but all of them had called for a particular type of freedom, and they had to work together in what was the first ethnically diverse society, and ethnic and religious and background diversity truly leads to creativity, with that sort of bubbling mix their that allows philadelphia to become a place of great commerce but also a
place of great middle-class entrepreneurship, startup, and innovation. benjamin franklin eventually decides after being an apprentice to start his own printshop, because over in england, with the foundries and stuff, batman, philadelphia i think had 11 newspapers, and he started -- with the foundries and stuff, but in philadelphia, i think they had 11 newspapers. the newspaper people were very and ben the ground, franklin starts the first really independent newspaper, not affiliated with any faction but really being willing to poke fun of all factions and to stand up to what he called we, the middling people, and he even in which they meet
on fridays, and it is for people, as he put it, who had their aprons. it was a gathering. it was for people who were the whokeepers and the artisans got up early, put on their aprons, and new how to create small businesses. these would bet the backbone of a new economy, and, indeed, one of the things that they did in this apron club is they made a set of rules on how to be a good start up entrepreneur and innovator. if you have ever read his autobiography, you have read the rules. honesty, frugality, diligent. and he is kind of a geek. he marks off how well he had at conquering or mastering
each one of the virtues. he puts a little plot by ms. name in the commonplace book when he messes up on one of the virtues, -- she put a little plot by his name. he finally transfers it to a piece of slate so he can have a new start, a clean slate, as it goes. again, andver finally after a while, he ends that mastering the 12 of the virtues, give each one of them right, and he shows it up proudly to the members of the club, and one of them said, you know, franklin county are forgetting a virtue that you might want to try, and the friend says, humility. you might want to try that one for a change, and what i love about franklin is that he admit, i was never really good at the virtue of humility. i never mastered it, but i was very good at the pretense of
humility. i learned to fake it very well. and he says that i learned that the pretense of humility was just as useful as the reality of humility. it made you listen to the people next to you. it may you hear what they are saying. it may you try to find the common ground, and that was the essence of the middle-class democracy that we were trying to put together. that notion that appearances help shape reality, of course, comes from shakespeare à la the man who turns into henry the fifth. we become the mask we where. these days, not the biggest concern. about looking right, making good appearances, trying to show that we are doing the right thing, but as franklin said, that is any actually believe
deeply in the notion of a civil society. started as soon as he got his newspaper going in his leather apron club to use the club to create specific associations. month, he invented, a volunteer fire department, a library, a library in philadelphia so that everyone could share their books. an academy for the education of and ain philadelphia, penn, becomes the university of philadelphia, a street sweeping core and a nightwatch core, and when he realized is that people like to work together. he also realizes that humility or the pretense of humility is
really important in getting people to collaborate. whenever in his newspaper he had an idea for something he wanted ,o start, such as the library or the fire department or whatever, he would never oppose -- propose it as an idea. he would either have it be a letter that somebody of proposes it, or he would say a friend of mine was talking, and he proposes this idea. what do you think? and he is the first in poor richard's almanac to sort of put forth the notion that it is amazing what you can get done if you do not care about taking the credit for it, and so he creates all of these associations, all of these collaborations, and he has a particular motto that he uses and inscribed set on the wall, which is the good we can do together exceeds the good we can do separately. it is that notion of collaboration and specific engagement as a society, which
is one of the things along with tolerance and inclusivity of people of diverse backgrounds that sets america apart from every other society of that time. so he tries to view this notion of forming associations voluntarily. de tocqueville, of course, and a big fanhis, of his. i think he probably wins the award of the person who is most quoted but least read, meaning everybody always quotes him and says, yes. do you remember when he actually said later on about that? i think i am the only one because i had to read it in college, and i thought, wait a minute. i am not quite sure he is. he was of french, wandering around america, and he was baffled by the fact that americans form voluntary
associations, like they do things like the voluntary fire department or barnraising, because they are so individualistic, so friend to oriented, it seems in conflict with this notion of association forming. ben franklin would not have seen any conflict, and i think most americans do not, witches you can be individualistic. you can be pioneering. you can be an innovator. entrepreneur, but you also like an involuntary way to form the type of associations that help us collaborate in business, in society, and in our civic lives, and that is what he mainly was able to do. when i wrote about the great innovators of the digital age, it occurred to me, having looked ,specially at benjamin franklin that collaboration, this ability to work together was the key of
true entrepreneurship and great innovation. that's life in the face of what we sometimes teach about onto partnership and innovation. we make it seem like it is the loan great inventor or whatever, -- wee biographer's biographers make it seem that way, that they have a lightbulb moment, and innovation happens. but it comes from forming teams and team work. it is something our education system is getting better at. running global area, we talked about the program she has putting together games that are teaching kids how to work together on games, but what we are learning both in schools, colleges, whatever is the importance of people being able to share thoughts who work
together, to collaborate. we used to do that also when i was in high school and college, but they had a name for it. it was called cheating, and now i think we have to say, no, that is how we are training kids to succeed in the world. take any of the great innovations of the digital age. you know, the internet, the computer, all of the great inventions of the digital age, but if you ask anybody who invented them come with all due respect to al gore, there is no easy answer. why? does they were all done as collaboration. computer at the university of pennsylvania, , and you might pick somebody at an iowa state you had created a lexical circuit, come up with a lot of the ideas of the computer.
some people say he was the great innovator, and you can find given to say he should be credit. the problem is he was not a collaborator. he did things on his own. problem, used to get in the car and drive for hours, sometimes to the illinois border. maybe because you can buy , but once the drink he put all together, he got called into the navy in the 19 40's, and the computer gets her of dismantled, and were never quite work. he couldn't get things to work or the systems to work, and it must mosttil mn people who have not heard of, because he was 70 who knew how to bring people together. he was benjamin franklin, and he m.i.t., to many places,
looking at people trying to make computers. he drove all of the way to iowa and looked at the one that he yearuilding, a 17 intellectual property patent dispute, but was not really feeling the ideas. it was collaborating, and he n, and he gets a thet engineer and mechanic, turkish taffy machine, and he gets all sorts of engineers, and he gets six really great women phd's in math. this is before we told women they do not know how to do math, so more women got phd's in the 1930's and math then years later, and they do the programming for it, and there was a team who ended up creating the computer. the same with the internet. it is not done by one person doing it. it was trying to tie together all of these computers that were in research universities, like eniac, and the defense
department wanted them to network together and created the notion of a packet switched network, then told universities they had to figure out how to connect, and the research professors do what research professors always do, is a delegated the task to the graduate students. students30 graduate who kind of hollow out and met every now and then to your how to do the original protocol for the packet-switched network, and since they did not want it to be top-down or handed down or anything like that, they wanted it to be purely collaborative, they did not know what to call these. a did not want to call them -- they regulations didn't want to call them rules or regulations or protocols, so every time they came up with an idea of how you would address a packet or hagood put the address in or how you would recombine it , they called it requests for
comment, and that made it seem very collaborative. requests for comment. "rfc," and that is still have we are inventing the internet. it is still being done in a collaborative way. notiont was the sort of of a benjamin franklin, which is bring people together in association, the good we can do together exceeds what we can do separately. the same with microchips. wasof my favorite stories whatoyce and his team in eventually comes intel and creates the microchip, done almost simultaneously at texas instruments by jack and his team. you need a team to be able to do it. who knowpeople people the mechanics, and you also need
people who know how to amplify a phone signal. and noyce dies before he gets the nobel prize, and the winner says if he was still alive, he would be sharing this with me. and the guy at the nobel prize ceremony, he says it is based on your inventions, sir, that the hasre digital revolution come about, and he gets up and says, that reminds me of what the beavers said to the rabbit in front of the hoover dam. it, but itot build is based on my idea. [laughter] walter: the idea was great, we have to have collaboration. and there is the period after he becomes the successful person,
he decides to really try to learn science. we think of him sometimes as some doddering old dude flying a kite in the rain, a penny saved is a penny earned, but, no, he actually was not that old, and electricity experiments he was doing during that period in the 1940's were the most exciting experiments of that era, the most important since newton's theory of gravity. wasnotion that electricity a single fluid, went from positive to negative to be captured in a battery, all of these words he invented, and the notion that you can then make a practical use of it, the lightning rod, because up until then, they had stored gunpowder sometimes in churches as they and so afraid of lightning, lightning was such a horrible tragedy that was happening over and over again, with the
lightning, and they would consecrate the bell so the lightning would not strike, and i think there were like 1200 lightning strikes on churches per year, and he was doing these experiments. and franklin writes to his friend, "you would think we would try some other theory," and he comes up with the lightning rod, which is great because he comes up with the theory and implement it, like a great entrepreneur or innovator. in fact, the first year of his electricity experiments, on the banks of the river in philadelphia, they are doing all sorts of things. they are creating a electric charges, studying electric mag not twogures that it is different fluids, as we thought at the time, but it is a single fluid that goes from negative to , so when he gets it all
figured out, he says the theory is great, but we have yet to find practical use for it. he writes his friend in london, a person who becomes his friend at where we now call franklin house, peter collins, and he is lamenting that they come up with these great series, but he said, you know, what use is the theory if you cannot find practical utility for it? iseven said of newton, it fine to know the theory of gravity, but i do not need to know the full theory to know that if i let go it will fall to the ground and break. i need to know how to put to use such theory, so at the end of the very first summer, the only use they find it is getting near to thanksgiving. actually, thanksgiving did not really exist back then, but the harvest feast, and they decided to kill the turkeys they were going to eat i shocking them with big jolts of electricity --
by shocking them. they were uncommonly tender, these turkeys. and those of us who enlist the inventions of benjamin franklin like to put some were on the list of the inventor of the fried turkey. but eventually, he comes up with you look athat if up electricity, and you look at a lightning bolt, he puts it in his journal, all of the comparisons, that they snapped like that, that they make a and he says,at, ok, they seem to be the same thing. a spark and a lightning bolt, and he writes at the bottom, let the experiment be made. i am writing about leonardo da vinci now, and leonardo is one of the first in history where instead of trying to take the wisdom of the ages says i'm going to have as my mistress experience and experiment.
over and over, he says, let the experiment be made. used to becently, it obvious that the scientific method was something you use, and you had a theory, and you test it, and then you look at the data, and you i'm more theory. that is the scientific method we and thefrom galileo but for franklin, it ties into the whole concept of the enlightenment, which is you have to understand science to understand society, that there are social sciences as well as natural science is, and he would have thought you a philistine is, you know, you knew all of the humanities, and you knew greek and latin and whatever, but you did not try to keep up with science. stemays, we kind of say education. we have to do stem education,
progress of northeastern storms by watching through his various systems exactly when a storm hits as they move up the coast. he goes to england his very, very first time to get that printing equipment i told you about, and the captains of the ship set it takes one day less to get to england than it does coming back, something not explained by the prevailing winds or the rotation of the earth, so he dropped buckets and barrels into the ocean to take the temperature of the water, because he has heard people say there is a strain in the ocean, and he becomes the first person to publish a map of the gulfstream having on that. understand how sciences beautiful and relates to our lives, and, by the way, he went back about seven or eight times between europe and the united state. the last time, he was 80, which, back then, was rather old, but he's still on that final trip,
he was still on the deck, lowering the barrel, taking the temperature of the ocean, kathy always had that curiosity -- because he always had that curiosity. that is such a key to understanding the enlightenment in the founding of our country. for example, in his works, he talks about do we need better words, that other aware fair. what happens when people are put out of work by automation, and he decides not to be ideological about it, but to test out how the laws are working in england and goes through all of the midlands of england, and different countries have more laws, and he tries to do a correlation between making sure people can, you know, live a good life but also make sure they have an incentive to work. -- that -- tax.ap
in places where there was a higher estate tax people were motivated to work. so it was not notion of let the helpedents be made, that inform franklin and how we created our society. he also, when he gets to london and france, is great at balancing idealism and realism, something we are having trouble doing inform policy today. paris, when he gets to the beginning of the revolutionary war, he realizes that we have to explain why we are in the revolution. he is one of the drafters of the declaration and when he gets to
paris but what does he do? he builds a printing press and he prints the wonderful documents coming out of america and all of the ideals america is fighting for. but he knew it was a balance of power. so he works with the french minister, knowing that if france ,omes to our side of the war part of the struggle between britain and rants -- france, that france, spain and in the netherlands, it will help them get it will get navigation right on the mississippi. the notion of finding the right balance, that too shows an appreciation for science, mechanics, but also the notion of let the you can -- the experiments be made. something we are not fully
getting right in our day and age. the main thing too, if you combine all of these traits, balance, respect for evidence, tolerance, respect for diversity, and inclusivity, you get a sense that we need to work together and collaborate and sometimes it demands compromise. and trading well the opinions of others. he was on the committee, right when he came back, after 17 inrs off and on, mainly on england trying to hold the british empire together with america, he comes back to philadelphia wondering, will he come down on the side of independence or stay loyal to the ground? he has to deal with his illegitimate son, they had a good relationship but now his son is the royal governor of new
jersey. they have aced that -- spat and franklin comes down on the side of independence. so they put him on the continental -- they put him on the cap -- on the committee that the continental congress appoints. with the respect to mankind, the declaration. it may have been the less -- last time that congress created a good committee. [laughter] it had been franklin, adams, thomas jefferson. thomas jefferson writes the first draft, it bugs john adams, but you know franklin is thrilled that jefferson is doing it. and one of the things you can see, not just as an editor, but the greatest sentence ever written by man which is the second sentence of the declaration -- you watch them
writing collaboratively. in the first draft, in the library of congress, we hold these truths to be sacred. and you see benjamin franklin, you know, his heavy black , using thed -- pen writes --s, and he something that comes from newton, the self-evident truth. rights, andienable john adams handwriting, endowed by the creator. so you can see just in the editing of one half of one cents, the notion of collaboration requiring balance and compromise. as they balance, the role of divine providence and the role
of rationality in getting to our rights and liberties. i was actually working with cnn when i was looking at the first draft and writing this part of the book. i came in one morning after i was studying and it was 7:00 a.m. because we used to have meetings at an ungodly hour and somebody said, we have a crossfire show tonight. judge in alabama had put the 10 commandments on the steps of the courthouse. a federal judge said he needed to take them down. they wanted to send in the federal marshal. and who would they have arguing against the 10 commandments? when i went back home that evening and i went back to working on the ben franklin manager, i said, this is really bad. you know, here we are watching
the 10 commandments being used as a wedge issue, a divider, when the founders were just showing how to do that balance to bring us together, not terrorists apart. -- not tear us apart. franklin is also wonderful at creating the notion of balance when it comes to the constitutional convention. that --ome back, 1787, back mainly from paris where he has negotiated for peace but stopping in england to see his exiled son and not reconciling with him. but he gets back and they have to carry him, for people carry him on a chair. 2.5 blocks from his house on market street, what is now called independence hall. 1787 --ot hot summer of
and in that hot summer of 1787, and when you need great leadership, make no mistake this was the world's greatest startup, you need people who are passionate and visionary and have great ideas. people like a jefferson or a madison. you need people of -- people you can trust like george washington. people who are passionate like samuel adams. but you also need that special type of person who can make everybody collaborate and make them come together. so, after the connecticut compromise has gone down in flames and it looks like the convention could break up on the big state and little state issue, equal votes for states in congress, or according to population in congress, how it was going to balance in a
national center. up and heinally gets proposes that there be a house and a senate, proportional representation for the house, he makes that motion. he is the one that makes that motion. and he says, you know, i am the oldest person here. he was not only the oldest person, but his age was twice the age of the average age of everybody else. he said, the older i get, something really makes sense to me, i realized i am fallible, i realize i have made mistakes. it is going to happen to you, you are going to get older and you will realize that you may have been wrong. so, they were at their roundtables, so, look at the person at your table. think about what they are saying
up realize that you may end being wrong about some things and they may end up being right. he said, when we were young in philadelphia we had a joint of wood that did not fit together and would take some for one side and shave some on the other side, and when you fit it it would hold together for centuries. that is how we fit with some of our demands. the notion comes from tolerance and collaboration and humility, or at least the pretense of humility. compromisers may not make great heroes, but they do make great democracies. so they end up voting for it, and franklin looks at the back of washington's chair and says, i often wondered if that was a rising sun or the setting sun. now i know it is a rising sun. hall inwalk out of the
philadelphia, mrs. powell comes up and famously says, what have you rot in their -- wrought in there? , madam,ays, a republic if you can keep it. you knew it was up to us to pull together to keep it healthy. even in a year like we are having now. during his lifetime, benjamin franklin donated to the building fund of each and every church in philadelphia. he believed that much in inclusivity, that the strength of our nation was that we brought different types of people together. one of the greatest historians of america once said, all franklin ever gave us was the notion of a good-natured religious and ethnic policy. look around the world today and think, wow.
that was a very important notion. not something to be dismissed. which we key notion of were bill. at one point, they were building a new hall in the via -- in philadelphia for preachers who came for the great awakening. it is still to the left of independence hall, even called the new hall, and he wrote the fundraising document for it. if -- ofote, even constantinople was here to do just about the profit of mohammed, we should listen. we might learn something. and on his deathbed, one of the largest contributors to israel, and when he dies instead of a minister accompaniment -- accompanying him to the grave, all ministers and priests of
philadelphia, including rabbis, bring his casket to the grave. that is what they were fighting for back then. and that is still what we are fighting for around the world, even here at home, today. thank you very much. [applause] walter: why don't you all come to the microphones. thank you. i think people know the routine. i will answer questions. yes? >> you mentioned that when ben franklin arrived in france and england, he sort of disregarded his initial american enterprise. how did he use the collaborative nature of his being as a
diplomat? how did it work in france and england? walter: you know, in england he was part of that group, the dr. johnson and others, the coffeehouse group. he realized that spreading the word through discussion, through being part of the group, even though it was not yet a democracy in england, that that would help. and his house, with mrs. stevenson as a landlord, there would be his carriage there. every day, somebody would be there. he always decided to bring people together, including -- he said, the empires like the noble days, it once broken would be hard to put back together. he had great politicians, but mainly he had thinkers, he realized there was an intellectual class. people like dr. johnson and
others that were part of the salons that had created -- when he went to france, he learned french very well. unlike john adams, who also was there. and he created his printing press. he disparaged john adams because he was aloof in what was part of the people in paris. he said john adams learned books by studying grammar and that he, ben franklin, learned it by writing poems to his mistresses and lounging on the pillows while they corrected him. but also benjamin franklin, you know how he rolls the paper up and down the streets as a young printer, he wanted that impression in france of being sort of the frontier philosopher
type. he knew that the french had read rousseau once too often and they believed in the natural man and philosopher. when he comes to paris, up until jerry lewis, he is the most famous person from america in paris because his lightning rod experiments were proven correct in paris. he comes to paris and they bring him in and people are lining the streets to see him, because he realizes part of making people work together is indeed with publicity at times. backwoods coat and it can scan cap -- coonskin cap. this is a guy who had barely ever been to the frontier. but he comes as sort of this frontier, natural person and he
is brought to the steps where he then hugs voltaire. in some ways, his collaboration is to an intellectual and public policy intellectual networking sort of aspen institute of his time. >> you mentioned being excess hiseen his -- nexus between achievements and in the alignment. how much of that comes from newton and then how much from the theology of the times? walter: i am not a true expert, but i believe newton, for franklin at least mother driving force. the good thing about noon's science -- newton's science is that it was copper has double to -- comprehensible to things in life. every force has a reaction.
and acceleration. they are rules and it makes it seem like, i get it, and these rules can actually apply. and you can test acceleration, you can test how force and mass work together. so that system, to me, not to me, but to franklin that is a foundation of the alignment. and -- enlightenment. and it is interesting because in that day and age, the reason that franklin and jefferson and other greats really loved science. that themething regular person could understand. one of the downsides of einstein was that he made science, the notion of relativity is not like physics, where maybe you have to be a
genius to think about motion, but you can grasp the concept of motion. likeor people franklin, the notion of newtonian mechanics was part of the alignment. >> one of the things he is known for is being an abolitionist. very complicated, is that something in his last year's, he took an active role in. earlier, you were talking about advertisements for slaves in his newspapers and over the years he owed several slaves -- owned several slaves. can you talk about that? important,is truly we are talking about if we need to take down statues of andrew jackson or whoever it may be. benjamin franklin kept a ledger of every error he made and how
he was to rectify it. and it starts with a running away from his brother as an apprentice. and when his brother dies, he pays for the education of his children. as he gets to the end of his life there is one big air -- er ror he made and he realizes it. as you said, he allowed the advertisement of slavery in the pennsylvania gazette. for some time, he had to household slaves, although they kind of just wandered off. but he did own slaves. and he realizes that was appalling. and worse yet, at the convention, the notion of the compromise that makes great heroes, he had signed on to the compromise for slavery. it is implied.
so, how does he rectify that? around age 80, the president of the society of the abolition of slavery. he realizes he had gone it wrong -- gotten it wrong. was -- 15 yeare , hisoman he was writing last hoaxes as a speech, talking about how in algiers he had a published newspaper, saying how important it was to enslave white people because they are the only ones that can make the north african -- whatever work. somebodyansposed for from africa saying it about white people. and he does quite a few of these written things and parities to
odieso -- parities -- par to push abolitionism. these are real flesh and blood human beings, they make mistakes. and the important thing is not to say, ok these guys are perfect. it is to say that they are human and they recognize when they make mistakes and they can change, as opposed to clinging to, never apologize for what you do. i think that franklin on slavery is inspirational, even though it was something he had to get his mind in the right place. >> you speak about the importance of his humility and his great compromise and work with others. i am thinking about another book you wrote about steve jobs, these are not characters -- characteristics that came across
all. walter: when i wrote about steve jobs, i wrote about the innovators, it was about collaboration. steve was very much of a collaborator in some ways. they created a great team to do the original apple. he was a strong and sometimes difficult personality. himthe amazing thing about was that even though everybody talked to me about, you know, he was so difficult to work with. they also said, i never would have given up the chance to work with him. he drove me crazy, he drove me to distraction, but he drove me to do things i did not know i could do. apple and his at top people there, even though he was a tough leader they stuck
so, him from like 1998 or until the present. ,ou still have johnny ives these people of great genius who all want to stick around. i hope the book conveys by the beingat, do not try this, tough on people unless you have the charisma and division to be like steve jobs and -- and vision like steve jobs. that is in the book, how can you be so tough, why were you always so mean, but yet why did you inspire a certain loyalty that very nice losses -- bosses do not always inspire? you know, when i asked him in his last year, what was the project you are most proud of.
i thought you would say the ipod , or the iphone, or the first macintosh. he said, you are not listening to me. he said, creating a great product can be hard, but what is really hard is to create a great team that will continue always to create great products. product thing, the best i ever made was the team at apple. he got the notion of collaboration, that is why the book is 600 pages. it is not that simple of how he got from being a tough leader to a collaborator. >> last question. walter: sorry, i am taking too long. >> our team just created a social media collaboration tool in which ben franklin is our inspiration. walter: as he was for america. >> as a distinguished publisher
and innovator and a civil activist, statesmen, supreme collaborator, how do you think benjamin franklin would grapple with the ugly social media stuff going on out there today, in light of what is happening politically? walter: thank you. next question. [laughter] walter: did you have a question? i will do both. that is a good question. i want to formulate an answer. home inited franklin's london. it was a few years ago. his landlord's -- his landlord's daughter was married to a doctor that was dissecting bodies. infectedently he got by a disease that killed him eventually. walter: the husband.
not ben franklin. closenow that he was very to his landlord and his last wenthome to america, she back with him and was at his bedside when he died. was she like a daughter to him? walter: marcia stand up one more time. if you have questions about the house, you should ask her. and the social media, it was odd. he had a common-law marriage with deborah franklin in philadelphia, and a daughter that was wonderful. and a son. but it is odd because he goes to london and he almost replicates having a family. i do not know and i do not pretend to know what type of romantic relationship -- i think he wanted people and a family around him.
he has that and probably -- po lly comes over and is with him when he dies. on social media and other things, benjamin franklin believed very strongly that the free flow of ideas and free ideasn -- free spread of would empower people and eventually, in a very raggedy way, lead to more democracy and more liberties. he believed out of 11 papers, there was room for 12. he believed nobody could control the free flow of information. and by bringing thomas payne over, for example, and helping him print pamphlets and hand them out on the street corners. by the way, thomas payne -- ben franklin, they are like the first bloggers. they are spreading ideas.
nowadays, if you look at china, cracking down on the free flow of ideas. if you look at with the free flow of ideas is doing around the world, it is sometimes bending the arc of history toward individual empowerment and democracy. and franklin felt that the countries and societies that were most comfortable with the free flow of information, most comfortable, not censoring people. everybody put out pamphlets, thomas payne's pamphlets were as bad as some things you would see on whatever cable news show i am thinking of -- he believed that that was at the core of what was going to make a democracy strong. he would have loved it, that there is a rocket flow of ideas. and he probably would not have
liked the days of journalism in which there were news magazines, two or three networks, the elite person got to say that is the way it is. and there was one source of information. he would like the spread of information. he would even like the notion of pseudonyms, which we sometimes use. but what he would not like is the fact that there is a total loss of civility. i think that comes from pure anonymity. the somewhat open question, he writes for richard, he uses that pseudonym for the almanac. uses --he pseudonyms he he basically knows you are responsible for your own work. and people knew that for richard was benjamin franklin. he believed you should take responsibility for your work.
i think he would be appalled at that information that comes from the anonymity of free press. he believed everybody had the right to free expression, he believed they are should not be gatekeepers who say, this is the information you get and don't get. basicieved in that respect and ability to sit down with people to try to find the common ground. that was the goal of argumentation, not to divide us but to bring us together. that required people to take responsibility for what they said. that is the change he would make. thank you. [applause]
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