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Young, Franklin, and the spirit we have lost


Young, Franklin, and the spirit we have lost

FRANKLIN, Indiana—Todd Young waged a lonely battle the other day.

On Sept. 11, the Republican senior U.S. senator from Indiana delivered the Constitution Day convocation talk at Franklin College. Mindful of the date’s significance and the setting, Young spoke about the ways the terrorist acts on Sept. 11, 2001, were an assault on constitutional principles and the role Founding Father Benjamin Franklin—the inspiration for the college’s name—played in shaping those principles.

The senator could have chosen to deliver the sort of “up with people” talk commonplace on such occasions.

Instead, the talk Young gave was more substantive—and, in some ways, surprising.

The surprises started early. Near the beginning of his talk, Young spoke of the threats that the grand American experiment in representative democracy faces.

“No foreign army, however mighty, will ever destroy it,” he said.

Then came the first eye-opener in his talk.

“Our Constitution’s greatest tests will always come from within…when society-wide transformations stress our system and cast doubt on our long-held values,” Young said.

Although the senator never spoke Donald Trump’s name, the allusion to the former president and the many challenges he presents to constitutional governance was clear. Even though he referenced the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon 22 years ago and our intensifying economic rivalry with China, Young did not refer to either as our greatest threat.

No, the greatest threat to our nation, he argued, is … us.

Young’s proposed defense against that threat was just as surprising.

He said we needed more figures like Ben Franklin in leadership and in our midst.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I have an abiding fondness for old Ben. He was, by far, the earthiest and most approachable of this nation’s founders, a man who, as a printer, worked as comfortably with his hands as he did with many of the rarified ideas of the Enlightenment.

I can imagine marching behind George Washington. I also can envision craning my neck to listen to words of wisdom from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison—both of whom spoke very softly.

Franklin, though, is the only one with whom I can picture myself sharing a beer or a laugh.

That said, the virtues Franklin possessed—his devotion to reason and scientific inquiry, his determination to understand and respect all points of view, his pragmatism—likely would make him a pariah in political circles these days.

Those virtues, which Young justly touted, not only helped America win its independence—it was through Franklin’s diplomacy that France became our ally in the conflict, which tipped the balance in our favor—but also helped ease the fledgling nation’s birth pains at key moments.

It was Franklin’s placating voice that calmed Jefferson’s pique over changes made to the latter’s first draft of the Declaration of Independence. And it was Franklin’s steadying presence that encouraged the drafters of the Constitution to seek out compromises—some inspired, some tragic—to the thorny disputes separating the young states.

Those Franklin qualities now would render him suspect in a political and cultural environment in which showing even a modicum of respect for differing opinions is viewed as either heresy or apostasy. He would be labeled either a RINO (Republican In Name Only) or DINO (you can figure that one out).

Young’s implied argument was that we Americans are poorer for this.

He’s right about that.

The point of the system of self-government Franklin championed wasn’t to produce winners and losers. Rather, it was to set up a structure in which different people with different backgrounds from different parts of the country could resolve differences and figure out ways to live and work together.

That sense of purpose we seem to have lost entirely.

Now, in addition to not being able to compromise with each other, we also seem not to be able to even listen to each other.

As he neared his close, Young said that “we need more of Franklin’s spirit in our nation.”

That is true.

One way to recover that spirit would be to do an honest accounting of how we lost it in the first place.

Ben Franklin was unflinching in one important way.

He never feared facing the truth.

The truth was, Franklin believed, the only path forward.

FOOTNOTE: John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College or the City-County Observer.


  1. So the fiction writer Krull pulled from the penumbra that Young, although never mentioning his name, was alluding to Trump in his remarks, but not obviously to the sludge the new Democrat Party has thrown on the Constitution and our country.

    More drivel from the devout leftist.

    • .

      VICTORY, only YOU would call an article about the Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington standing up against the King of England, who is was a Dictator in the purest form, liberal clap trap.

      Here is what we learned:
      VICTORY NO LONGER BELIEVES the United States should be a democracy.

      VICTORY and Trump supporters?
      From what Trump supporters say and do, one can only conclude they have given up on democracy:
      – They didn’t respect the 2020 US Election results.
      – They oppose easy access to the ballot for voters.
      – They refuse to accept that Trump was trying to stay in power, to INVALIDATE THE LAST ELECTION, by sending rioters to Congress to stop the US Congress validating the 2020 Presidential Vote.

      And VICTORY calls all of us LIBERALS (conservative or not, he does not care) for wanting the United States and it’s Constituion remain a country where “we have elections, we decide our elected officials by voting.”

      We know EXACTLY who VICTORY is when he posts here at the CCO.
      He is NOT interested in extending the right of US Citizens to elect their own leaders.

      And if you disagree with VICTORY on this point?
      Instead of being an American? He calls you a liberal?


  2. On exiting the Constitutional Convention, Franklin was asked by a group of citizens what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin, ever the intellect, knew it was not a democracy, as a pure democracy was doomed to fail, as all had throughout history. To this day, there are those who comment through ignorance that our federal government is a democracy, thus showing their inability to comprehend the document that guides the patriotic and baffles others with it’s truth and simplicity.

    • ……..you are making my freaking point! Ptua!!

      You are advocating a Dictatorship for the United States!
      VICTORY — MOVE TO RUSSIA where they have a Dictator: Vladmir Putin!!!

      The United States is a democracy known as a democratic republic: Citizens Vote officials into Office for limited terms – they are NOT DICTATORS. They govern on behalf of the Voters, and the Voter can VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE.

      AGAIN, let’s be clear:

      VICTORY NO LONGER BELIEVES the United States should be a country where citizens-vote for their elected leaders. He wants a dictator of his own choosing, you know, like Hitler and Stalin were, and what Putin is today in Russia — Dictators.

      And VICTORY calls all of us LIBERALS (conservative or not, he does not care) for wanting the United States and it’s Constitution remain a country where “We have elections, and we decide our elected officials by voting.”

      We know EXACTLY who VICTORY is when he posts here at the CCO.
      He is NOT interested in extending the right of US Citizens to elect their own leaders.

  3. As Oscar said: “I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed man.” I’m sure he wouldn’t have us argue with children, nor those with childish minds.

    • Let’s be clear VICTORY.

      Trying to reason with a white-nationalist racist, who believes in discarding the democratic republican form of government that is the United States?

      THAT is a fools game.
      But beating back your kind of betrayal of our Country’s founding Fathersl faith in the republic is the order of the day.


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