Ben Franklin’s Autobiography is still a viable formula for the American dream because it demonstrates being able to become whoever you want to be, achieve success by working hard, and always recovering from mistakes and problems.
The American dream can be defined as “the idea that every American can be successful following any path they choose, while also overcoming and hardships through determination.” Ben Franklin’s Autobiography details his life experiences, and every part of the American dream takes place in his life. Early in Franklin’s life, his father made him an apprentice to a printer who was also his brother, and after several years, he decided to run away from home. Franklin’s reason was that his brother did not treat him with respect, in addition to attracting unwanted attention from local authorities regarding his newspaper articles. Franklin talked about these writings, saying “my indiscreet disputations about religion began to make me pointed at with horror by good people as an infidel or atheist” (23). Franklin knew that if he stayed, he was risking being labeled a heretic, and he would then be unable to do many of the things that he wanted to do (labels like that often stayed with someone for life). Even though it was illegal to run away, he knew that he would be able to start a new life and do exactly what he wanted to if he ran away. To this day, people come to America from all over the world to do the things they want to do in life. Some people choose to pursue higher education to better themselves pedagogically, some people wish to become actors, and many others simply strive for lives where they are happy and satisfied. Franklin knew who he wanted to be and what he wanted to do with his life, and that same passion and idea is still a driving force for many Americans today.
One of the most important parts of the American dream is the ability to be successful. America is often referred to as “the land of opportunity” by many different peoples around the world. Ben Franklin took advantage of many of the opportunities available to him, and he achieved remarkable things because of this. One example of this is his print shops. Later in Franklin’s life, he owned and operated a successful newspaper in several different colonies. Ben Franklin described the rise and growth of this printing company as “continually augmenting and my circumstances growing daily easier, my newspaper having become very profitable” (102). Franklin was both a talented and passionate printer, and this line of work was natural to him. He was able to turn something that he loved into a career by working hard, often starting early in the morning and working late into the night. This work ethic and attitude towards our careers is the embodiment of what the American dream is. In the land of opportunity, everybody can find something that they are passionate about and make a career out of it. Anybody can succeed through hard work and determination. When Franklin set out to complete a task or begin a project, he worked diligently at it and made it the best it could possibly be, and that is why he was successful. If anybody works hard and is passionate about what they are doing, they will be successful in America.
Despite the large number of successes that Franklin enjoyed throughout his life, he also had to deal with many problems and mistakes that he made. Not too long after Franklin moved to Philadelphia, he was convinced to go to England by the Governor. The Governor told Franklin that he would write letters of recommendation and credit to be used to help Franklin set up a print shop in England. After voyaging to England, he arrived, only to find that the letters had never been sent. Franklin met with one of his friends, Denham, and he said that “there was not the least probability that he had written any letters for [Franklin]” (41). Franklin was now stuck in England with little to no connections. This quickly became an opportunity for him, and he made the best of a rather bad situation. The American dream is not only about being successful, but also about not letting your negative experiences and mistakes define you. Many businessmen and women struggled and made terrible mistakes with their companies. Even when it seemed like their dreams were crushed, everything was crumbling down in front of them, and they could no longer continue, they chose to persevere. They learned from their mistakes and came up with creative ways to solve their problems. Ben Franklin was able to achieve his dream, and ultimately, the American dream, because he always looked forwards and adapted when he needed to, and with the right attitude and work ethic, anybody in America can also accomplish this.
Despite the many of the differences between Ben Franklin’s time and ours, Ben Franklin’s life and his Autobiography are still a perfect depiction of what the American dream is and how anybody who comes to or lives in America can achieve it; his story demonstrates becoming who you want to be, achieving success through hard work, and picking ourselves back up when we’ve fallen down.
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