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The student news site of Allegheny College

The Campus

The student news site of Allegheny College

The Campus

Benjamin Franklin invited to campus for Constitution Day

Benjamin Franklin had quite a lot to say to Allegheny students on Constitution Day. (Cody Miller/THE CAMPUS)

You may have heard the piping of a piccolo this past Tuesday in the Campus Center lobby.

Perhaps a man in a powdered wig handed you a pocket copy of the Constitution.

If seeing Ben Franklin on campus didn’t give it away, this Friday marks the 223 anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution.

To raise awareness of this momentous and often forgotten holiday, The Center for Political Participation (CPP) hosted a question and answer session with Benjamin Franklin that was open to the student body, proving that over 200 years later, Allegheny still has a few things to learn from our founding fathers.

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“There is so much you can do for Constitution Day,” said Mary Solberg, program coordinator of CPP. “It [Ben Franklin’s appearance on campus] will attract a lot of different students from different disciplines.”

The historical reenactment of Benjamin Franklin was performed by Paul Stillman, who has been reenacting historical characters for thirty years. He currently reenacts 12 different characters, ranging from Thomas Stillwell, a revolutionary war solider, to an 18th century Seneca, Eastern Woodland tribesman, and even Theodore Roosevelt.

“Most people look at history as dry and boring,” said Stillman. “I bring it to life, which many find much more interesting.”

He performs his reenactments to many age groups ranging from kindergarten through college. His mission, he says, is to foster youth engagement, and his goal is to reach out to people from all walks of life.

Stillman has also had the opportunity to debate Tip O’Neil, former Speaker of the house and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former New York Senator, in character as Ben Franklin, of course.

Before Benjamin Franklin headed over to the campus center to give his speech, The Campus asked him some hard–nosed questions one–on–one.

Q: What is your favorite Constitutional Amendment and why?
A: I was not in favor of the Constitution at all. ‘Let them fight each other,’ is what I said. Let well enough alone. I was very ill when they came to pick me up for the convention; they picked me up and carried me to the state house on a sedan chair. I lay on the statehouse floor for three hours.

Q: You were a well versed man from politics, philosophy, and science. Why didn’t you ever patent your inventions?
A: My ideas were for the good of all mankind-not to make money.

Q: What is your favorite contribution to society and why?
A: The tempered bath (also known as a “hot tub”). The tempered bath was 4ft wide and 4ft deep. That’s probably why I enjoyed my escapades in France…and had so many children.

Q: Other than being a politician and ambassador to France, what did you do in your free time?
A: I enjoyed taking air baths, running through the forest — it was a gay time.

Q: It is a well known fact that you oppose slavery. What did you say when delegates proposed a slave trade?
A: I am highly opposed to slaves. My mother was an indentured servant from Ireland. Old Thomas Jefferson said he would never give up his slaves to an ass named Franklin.

Q: Do you believe gay marriage is unconstitutional?
A: Fops? We accepted them in society. The only people who had trouble with fops are religious institutions. We founded this country based on religious preferences.

Q: How did you feel about the Constitutional Convention being held behind closed doors?
A: I told Washington that we should not be so private. ‘This is for the people,’ I said, ‘not a select few.’

Q: What advice would you give to young politicians?
A: If you know you’re right don’t ever back down. As long as you’re right you’ve got to keep going.

Editor’s note: This article was edited to reflect Mary Solberg’s actual position of Program Coordinator at the CPP.

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  • K

    KathySep 19, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Who knew that Ben Franklin invented the hot tub? Thanks for such an interesting article, Meghan. And thank you, CPP, for such a fun, informative program!

  • J

    jaffeaSep 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Thanks Mary! Sorry for the mistake.

  • M

    Mary SolbergSep 16, 2010 at 12:07 pm

    Hi, Meghan.
    Great story, but could you fix my title? Professor Dan Shea is the director of the CPP. I am program coordinator.