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founding fathers, historical, politics, leaders, inventors
Painting by Joseph-Siffred Duplessis (modified) via Wikipedia Commons.

Painting of Benjamin Franklin from 1778 from the National Portrait Gallery.

Ben Franklin: He was a Founding Father, he loved to party, and he's on the $100 bill. But you might be surprised what else he's left behind.

Most people have no idea he created the civic triumphs that formed the foundation of American culture.


He and his friends created the first volunteer fire department, the first post office, and the first lending library.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

How'd he do it? He had the right attitude and a great group of friends.

historical paintings, early America, government, institutions

The founding fathers found ways to work it out.

Image via Wikimedia Commons, artist Howard Chandler Christy.

And I'm not even talking about his Founding Father friends. This is a totally different squad.

At age 21, Franklin got his friends together to form the Junto.

The Junto was a weekly meet-up or "mutual-improvement club" where he and his friends talked about how they could make both themselves and the world cooler.

There were certain questions Franklin asked his friends at these meetings. High jinks and civic innovations ensued.

The folks at 92nd Street Y, Stanford's Hoover Institution, and Citizen University are set on proving that Franklin's approach can be brought into the modern day. Out of the questions Franklin posed, the folks behind a new form of the Junto, called Ben Franklin Circles, have chosen the most effective — just nine simple prompts:

1. Is there something you need help with?

2. Is anyone here starting a new project and is there a way we can help?

3. Anyone who’s doing innovative work?

4. Is there anyone whose friendship we want?

5. How can we use our networks to help each other?

6. Is there anyone we can mentor and encourage?

7. Can we give one another any personal/professional advice?

8. Can we improve anything about the circle itself?

9. Are there ways the circle should be connecting with and contributing to nearby communities?

As you can see, there are a lot of hive-mind, lifting-each-other-up vibes. Honestly, I feel kinda good just reading these questions.

But what's really interesting is what Franklin did more than 20 years after starting this improvement club.

At age 42, Franklin took the Junto to the next level. Believing he already had enough money to last the rest of his life, he retired from work and dedicated himself 100% to his community.

As a profile of Franklin's uniquely non-monetary definition of success in The Atlantic states, "rather than cultivate the fine arts of indolence, retirement, [Franklin] said, was 'time for doing something useful.'"

fireman, art, community, volunteers, creators

Useful like a volunteer fireman creator.

Image via Charles Washington Wright/Wikimedia Commons.

Useful like a volunteer fireman creator. Image (modified) via Charles Washington Wright/Wikimedia Commons.

Not a bad way to spend retirement. Or life. One way to create that energy in your life is now available to everyone in the form of the Ben Franklin Circle.

Ben Franklin Circles are starting to pop up, and they're creating an amazing difference in people's lives.

Asha Curran, who's on the staff at the 92nd Street Y, says that her Ben Franklin Circle was one of the most profound parts of her past year.

"It is so rare to have an opportunity to be in a room of smart, thoughtful people where the focus of conversation is solely on our ethical selves. ... I was challenged to face things about my own habits that were painful but constructive, and I came out absolutely the better for it both personally and professionally."

Creating a sense of belonging can affect more than just happiness and well-being — it can even improve health as well. Sometimes for years!

Social psychologist and Stanford professor Greg Walton created a "belonging intervention" — basically an exercise that gives participants a sense that they’re not alone in their struggles —and found that it "increased subjects' happiness, improved their health and reduced cognitive activation of negative stereotypes for several years after the initial intervention." The Ben Franklin Circles have the potential to create similar results in the lives of its participants.

We humans have immense potential inside of us, and through helping each other, we can do so much — more than Franklin ever imagined.

Health

A child’s mental health concerns shouldn’t be publicized no matter who their parents are

Even politicians' children deserve privacy during a mental health crisis.

A child's mental health concerns shouldn't be publicized.

Editor's Note: If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is in need of help, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a United States-based suicide prevention network of over 200+ crisis centers that provides 24/7 service via a toll-free hotline with the number 9-8-8. It is available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.


It's an unspoken rule that children of politicians should be off limits when it comes to public figure status. Kids deserve the ability to simply be kids without the media picking them apart. We saw this during Obama's presidency when people from both ends of the political spectrum come out to defend Malia and Sasha Obama's privacy and again when a reporter made a remark about Barron Trump.

This is even more important when we are talking about a child's mental health, so seeing detailed reports about Ted Cruz's 14-year-old child's private mental health crisis was offputting, to say it kindly. It feels icky for me to even put the senator's name in this article because it feels like adding to this child's exposure.

When a child is struggling with mental health concerns, the instinct should be to cocoon them in safety, not to highlight the details or speculate on the cause. Ever since the news broke about this child's mental health, social media has been abuzz, mostly attacking the parents and speculating if the child is a member of the LGBTQ community.

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Famous writers shared their book signing woes with a disheartened new author.

Putting creative work out into the world to be evaluated and judged is nerve-wracking enough as it is. Having to market your work, especially if you're not particularly extroverted or sales-minded, is even worse.

So when you're a newly published author holding a book signing and only two of the dozens of people who RSVP'd show up, it's disheartening if not devastating. No matter how much you tell yourself "people are just busy," it feels like a rejection of you and your work.

Debut novelist Chelsea Banning recently experienced this scenario firsthand, and her sharing it led to an amazing deluge of support and solidarity—not only from other aspiring authors, but from some of the top names in the writing business.

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This article originally appeared on 04.15.19


On May 28, 2014, 13-year-old Athena Orchard of Leicester, England, died of bone cancer. The disease began as a tumor in her head and eventually spread to her spine and left shoulder. After her passing, Athena's parents and six siblings were completely devastated. In the days following her death, her father, Dean, had the difficult task of going through her belongings. But the spirits of the entire Orchard family got a huge boost when he uncovered a secret message written by Athena on the backside of a full-length mirror.

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This article originally appeared on 01.22.19


The legality of abortion is one of the most polarized debates in America—but it doesn't have to be.

People have big feelings about abortion, which is understandable. On one hand, you have people who feel that abortion is a fundamental women's rights issue, that our bodily autonomy is not something you can legislate, and that those who oppose abortion rights are trying to control women through oppressive legislation. On the other, you have folks who believe that a fetus is a human individual first and foremost, that no one has the right to terminate a human life, and that those who support abortion rights are heartless murderers.

Then there are those of us in the messy middle. Those who believe that life begins at conception, that abortion isn't something we'd choose—and we'd hope others wouldn't choose—under most circumstances, yet who choose to vote to keep abortion legal.

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