Independence Day: Baylor’s Benjamin Franklin Scholars Bring Light to Complex FigureJune 29, 20182 min read
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin was a complex man.
Among his many roles, he was a businessman, entrepreneur, inventor, journalist, author, printer, editor, politician, postmaster, statesman, ambassador and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
And even with a treasure trove of accomplishments, sometimes the Franklin legends are bigger than Franklin the man – and it’s taken an army of historians and scholars throughout the centuries to sort it out.
As July 4 Independence Day approaches, Baylor University's two Franklin scholars share different perspectives of Franklin, his faith and his business acumen:
• Thomas Kidd, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of History and associate director of Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion
• Blaine McCormick, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the management department in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business
Both have penned Franklin books and both have been featured nationally for their research on the Founding Father.
Kidd’s 2017 book, “Benjamin Franklin: The Religious Life of a Founding Father,” has received high marks for its analysis of Franklin’s beliefs. From his Puritan upbringing to deism, skepticism and more, the book explores the influences and evolution of faith throughout Franklin’s life.
“In today’s polarized political and religious environment, some pundits seek to remake the Founding Fathers in their own image. Benjamin Franklin’s example reveals that the historical truth is often more complicated,” Kidd wrote in a column for The Wall Street Journal.
McCormick, who wrote “Ben Franklin: America’s Original Entrepreneur,” discovered a passion to study the Founding Father after listening to an audiobook of Franklin’s autobiography.
“Franklin could do things as a statesman, and understand things, and achieve things as a statesman, because he had achieved things in the marketplace first,” he said. “I’ve yet to find a better book for businesspeople to learn about how to run a business in the American Experiment. He wrote the autobiography to help train people in the life of business. Many of the principles are still very robust.”
And the way he shared those principles (many of which have been misquoted and made into memes through the decades) is important, McCormick said.
“Franklin used sentences no longer than a Tweet to train generations of colonial businesspeople,” he said. “They were short. They were memorable. They were high-impact.”
Blaine McCormick, Ph.D. Chair, Department of Management
Dr. Blaine McCormick is the Chair of the Management Department in the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University.
Thomas S. Kidd, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor of History
Dr. Kidd is Associate Director of Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion and Co-Director of the Program on Historical Studies of Religion.