The past year in the United States has been an eventful one, filled with political strife, anti-racism protests and a devastating pandemic. Underlying all three is a pervasive political polarization, compounded by a breakdown in civic and civil discourse, not only on Capitol Hill, but across the country.
In a new year, with a new President and a new Congress, there seems to be an opportunity. Americans, starting with the president, are talking about turning away from the division of the recent past and choosing a different direction: to speak civilly and productively about the problems facing the country.
But how do you do that? As a literary scholar, I appreciate the power of carefully crafted language and believe Americans – from those in government to those around the dinner table – could take a lesson from one. of the founders and greatest communicators of this nation: Benjamin Franklin.
From “ small difference ” “ positive argument ”
Before he rose to fame as a statesman, scientist, and diplomat, Franklin, born 1706 and died 1790, made his living in Philadelphia on words – as a printer, journalist, and essayist.
Having worked early in his life in Boston for his fiery journalist brother James, he knew the kind of war that could be fought with words and even made time to argue with a young friend.
“We had a fight sometimes,” Franklin recalls in his autobiography, “and we liked the argument very much, and very eager…
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- Headline: Talking about Politics in 2021: Lessons on Humility and the Search for the Truth from Benjamin Franklin
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