Ben Franklin: Frat Dude

by Josh Orendi

Ben Franklin was born to be a fraternity man!

I've been reading the New York Times bestseller “Benjamin Franklin, An American Life” by Walter Isaacson. It's a little thick for this Bethany College grad, but every chapter is packed with fascinating information about the man, the city, the time period, etc. Anyway, there is one part in particular that I can't get out of my mind. The Junto!

JUNTO: A club for mutual improvement. Established in 1727 by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia, PA for the purpose of debating questions of morals, philosophy, politics, and to exchange knowledge of business affairs. Check out this wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Junto

The Junto (latin for meeting) began as 12 members from diverse backgrounds that saw value in organizing likeminded leaders together to better themselves and their community. The weekly meetings began at a Philadelphia tavern before moving to a local house. The men in the group weren't “better” than other men in the community, but certainly wanted something better for themselves and the community. 

These were everyday guys that enjoyed each others company over a beer, but saw the value in organizing themselves to advance their individual and collective causes. Hello! (sounds familiar, right?) Any new members were required to take a four question oath in front of the group that publicly announced their commitment to the Junto, dedication to truth, willingness to be open minded, and tolerant of the differences of others. (sounds like a fraternal oath to me)

For many years, Isaacson recounts the members of the Junto helping each other both personally and professionally. The “club” created bonds of trust and friendship. This is another amazing example (nearly 300 years old) of what happens when you bring together People & Purpose.

The Wikipedia link above offers a list of 24 questions discussed/debated at the Junto meetings. This would be a fun lesson to teach an expansion group (or any group for that matter) and challenge a group of collegiate men to think of themselves as a fraternal “junto.” Franklin hand selected these men because of their backgrounds, professions, leadership, and willingness to live the purpose of the group. 

Have the wisdom of Ben Franklin when you recruit for your fraternal junto. Have a deep understanding of the purpose of your organization and hand select only the best men to join your group. It should be an honor to be chosen and membership should provide deep personal and professional benefits for many years.