Everyone knows George Washington was the first president of the United States. Many know the second (John Adams), and the third (Thomas Jefferson), as well. After that, it gets a little fuzzy for most people.
One of my favorite questions to ask in our Old School workshop is, "Which president was Benjamin Franklin?"
I am usually met with blank faces.
I say again, "Which president was Ben Franklin?"
"He was never president!" is usually the second reaction provided by a smiling student.
"Not true...He was president - President of Pennsylvania."
In fact, Franklin did preside over the government of the soon-to-be-known-as Keystone State from 1785-87. Officially, his title was "President of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council." (We would call him "governor" today.)
His 310th birthday is this coming Sunday, January 17.
"Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." - Ben Franklin
We often tell stories like this concerning thirteen well-known historical figures we call our Old School "witnesses from history."
Here are the rest:
Importance of details.
Seemingly trivial, the fact that Franklin held a high executive post gives more insight into his ambition and the fact that he was likely more of a shrewd politician than a dawdling town elder at the Constitutional Convention.
Perceived, then real expertise.
Whether substantiated or not, when I share that small bit of information concerning Ole Ben's presidency, I must admit I feel pretty smart for a moment. I am "obviously" an expert on Benjamin Franklin, right? Maybe or maybe not - but the perception is that I know a considerable amount about his life. By telling non-mainstream stories, you can set an initial "halo effect" of expertise that is hard to lose. And what's more - your "wiser persona" can actually lead you and motivate you to be better informed. A self-fulfilling prophecy that can make better students, employees and citizens.
You are more interesting.
Sometimes our techno-centric world can make us pretty boring. Gone are the days of being "well-rounded" via classical education deemed necessary by our parents and grandparents. But by knowing "something more" in this modern age can't hurt you - and can make you much more interesting to be around. Not a bad thing at all!
So who is your favorite historical figure? Do a little research and see what you can uncover about them. You will be amazed, entertained and a better storyteller.
Have a story to share with the Old School?
Send it in and we'll send you a free 2016 "Witnesses From History" calendar.