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As
one of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin appears among the most
interesting and intelligent men of colonial times. Benjamin Franklin’s
Autobiography is an inspirational story of his personal, as well as public
achievement throughout his life. Franklin deeply identifies principles as being
responsible for building strong character. Born in Boston, Franklin was one
that came from a poor family of fifteen children where his father was nothing
but a tallow chandler and a soap-boiler. Believe it or not Franklin’s education
was of limited formal education. He was enrolled in Grammar school but was
forced to leave and start work with his father. Franklin successfully became a
statesman, author, publisher, printer, scientist, inventor and even a diplomat.
Franklin’s accomplishments varied greatly. He founded a library, invented a
stove, and established a fire company. Franklin’s life embodies the exemplary
model of a life composed of discipline, self-reliance and self-improvement.
From his humble beginnings as an apprentice candle and soap maker in his
father’s business to a successful man, Benjamin Franklin was, and still is, an
American Icon and truly illustrates the model of the “ideal” American. He is
the embodiment of the “American” dream with his “rags to riches” story, But
what are the “American” attributes that Franklin embodies?

            In Franklin’s autobiography, he
introduces the circumstances of his life in a letter addressed to his son,
describing why this recollection of his life may be useful. Franklin starts
with why he is writing the circumstances of his life stating to his son “Having
emerg’d from the Poverty and Obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a State
of Affluence and some Degree of Reputation in the World, and having gone so far
thro’ Life with a considerable Share of Felicity, the conducting Means I made
use of, which, with the Blessing of god, so well succeeded, my Posterity may
like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own Situations,
and therefore fit to be imitated (Franklin p.248-249).” This quote demonstrates
how Franklin viewed his life as a tool for every American to use as a guide
throughout their lives. What it appears to mean to be an “American”, is someone
that is ambitious and willing to work hard for what one hopes to accomplish in
life. An “American” should be striving to achieve a goal in their life, or one
would live a boring life. Franklin’s fame and wealth did not fall from the sky,
it was his work ethic, self-reliance, self-education and endurance that brought
him that far. This work ethic and endurance is every example for “Americanness”.
Franklin built his life up from a point where he had nothing, he did not let
his life struggles get in the way of his ambition and his dream to become more.
Franklin took advantage of each and every opportunity that came his way. For example,
Franklin writes about “I happen’d to meet with a Book written by one Tyron, recommending
a Vegetable Diet. I determined to go into it….and then propose’d to my Brother,
that if he would give me Weekly half the Money he paid for my Board, I would
board myself. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I could
save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund for buying books. (Franklin
p.257)” From his autobiography, one could tell that he was always trying to outperform
others, work hard and even going as far to educate himself. This quote shows
how much Franklin was into improving himself, it is also characteristic for
Americans. It demonstrates that anyone can make it in the American society,
with enough patience, endurance, and work leads to the saying “Anything is
possible”.

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Franklin wrote in his autobiography
that he never did achieve his goal of attaining perfection. However, he did
achieve the following: “Tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so
ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavor, a
better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not
attempted it. (Franklin p.306)” This has to deal with Franklin’s thirteen
virtues. Franklin says “I wish’d to live without committing any Fault at
anytime; I would conquer all that either Natural Inclination, Custom, or
Company might lead me into. (Franklin p.300)”

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