“The hill we climb
If only we dare
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit,
it’s the past we step into
and how we repair it”
–Amanda Gorman, From “The Hill We Climb”
We envision a stronger, fairer, more resilient, and more democratic America where citizens have agency to create change in their communities. To arrive at this future, we need to remember who we are.
The United States is the world’s greatest experiment in human freedom — the first country built on a set of universal values: these truths: political equality, natural rights, and the sovereignty of the people. We have discovered these essential truths through human reason and experience. They are truths that, as Franklin wrote in his edit of the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence are “self-evident.”
The way we learn and engage with these truths is essential to our understanding of what it means to be an American and for the ultimate success of the American experiment. For any country to succeed, especially one built on values, not bloodlines, it must understand and assert its core values, model them and celebrate them. It must transmit its wisdom, its story and its aspiration to its citizens, especially its youth. It starts with Franklin.
A citizenship culture in crisis
We live in a time of increasing demographic, cultural and technical change. Stresses on the system and years of neglect have created a crisis of history and of citizenship. Somehow we have let the most extreme and divisive voices become the loudest. We have allowed cynicism and lies to infect a large number of our citizens. At the same time, rising inequality, social fragmentation and a crisis of trust are stress-testing our institutions. We can and must do better.
The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 represents a turning point in American history. It is as if the source code of the American Republican has become infected. It must be repaired and updated. We will either move forward together or regress into tribalism and selfishness. There could not be a better time to re-acquaint America with Ben Franklin, the original source code of American ingenuity, and remind ourselves and the world who we really are. We hope you will join us.
“I have the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting Sun”
The Franklin Project logo reproduces the iconography from the back of the chair in which President George Washington sat during the proceedings of the Constitutional Convention. Benjamin Franklin is said to have remarked that the half-sun could be regarded as rising or setting depending upon the outcome of the Convention. Upon the signing of the U.S. Constitution, he announced to James Madison, “I have the happiness to know It is a rising and not a setting Sun.” At the center of that rising sun, a pole and Phrygian cap recalls the Liberty Pole and Liberty Cap—potent symbols of political protest during the early national period—foregrounding the vital role of public debate and civic engagement in the newly-formed republic.