was a passionate traveler, a self-taught leader and shooting star
who crossed an ocean to negotiate the deal of a lifetime.
From an early age, he sought to sail the world.
In the end, he had crossed the mighty seas eight times,
spending twenty-seven years in lands other than his own.
Most often, the engaging diplomat traveled in service
of his country, a young nation struggling for freedom,
fulfilling his title role of brilliant and influential statesman.
Like so many road warriors,
Franklin felt the call to travel deep in his heart.
The pioneering American trailblazer went by many other names:
Founding Father, diplomat, printer, scientist, inventor, writer, politician,
firefighter, abolitionist, patriot, philanthropist, lady-killer....
Personally, I think the nom de plume that describes him best is:
Benjamin Franklin - Traveling Salesman.
"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote."
Franklin closed the mega-deal of the century:
In 1776 he set sail to France, hoping to convince the monarchy
to join in the colonies' fight against British rule.
America needed a powerful ally and Ben Franklin cunningly
stirred up France's hatred of the British Crown -- the perfect incentive
for an alliance that resolved difficulties on both sides of the ocean.
Revenge sells and Franklin was ready
with an offer they couldn't refuse.
Franklin cast off on a crucial mission, determined to make France his ally.
His sole aim was risky at best.
He need to convince King Louis XVI to pony up much needed
monetary assistance for the American Colonies' war machine.
The colonists' goal to get out from under the constraints of Britain
and King George was virtually meaningless to the
French king -- but the smooth operator from Philadelphia had a plan.
Aiming for the port city of Nantes, the ship instead landed in
Auray, a diminutive harbor in Brittany.
Traveling is so often a hit & miss process.
And just like any smart globetrotter, Franklin made hay out of sunshine,
realizing the misses (Nantes) teach you as much as the hits (Auray).
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how
close they were to success when they gave up."
Thomas Edison, American Inventor
Its effect on the outcome of the Revolution can't be overstated.
But how did homespun Ben weave his magic in the court of Versailles?
The master wheeler dealer brokered his titanic deal by charming every corner of Paris -- females in particular -- while fawning over all things French.
He kept a magnificent wine cellar and soon became the toast of the town.
Benjamin Franklin's genius was his ability to mix philosophical eloquence
with a folksy demeanor -- charming the culottes off even the fussiest of the French.
His admirers sometimes referred to him as the American Aristotle.
Previous American patriots -- such as John Jay and John Adams -- looked
at the French with uber-moralistic contempt but Ben delighted
in the challenge of overcoming and celebrating the differences.
He played up those distinctions, wearing his fur cap and threadbare coat
while the court kept to powdered wigs, formal stockings and fancy breeches.
"Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman --
not the attitude of the prospect."
W. Clement Stone, American Author
Try to imagine our Founding Father "in the room where it happens" --
in this case, the court of Versailles.
Humble Ben, -- intellectually stimulating, long admired for his scientific accomplishments -- but seriously, picture the unlovely old goat riddled
with gout in the middle of Marie Antoinette's lavish golden playground....
where he nailed the deal.
The persuasive American secured the loans and the alliance in one fell swoop.
King George was toast -- french toast to be exact!
And Ben got to tell him to go fly a kite....
Once you get there, you'll want to hang your sailing cap in the
cute little neighborhood called Saint-Goustan.
The moment you arrive, you'll feel like you're on
a first-name basis with an American legend.
Drinking a glass or two of Breton cider in a bar named -- what else,
Bar Franklin -- you're entitled to think every day is Independence Day....
Franklin landed port-side on this spot in December of 1776.
It's an unforgettable town with an elephantine memory
that will never forget Benjamin Franklin.
You'll see his name every time you turn around -- yet we found
very few Americans visiting this milepost of U.S. history.
A watershed moment in the Revolutionary War, Saint-Goustan and
Benjamin Franklin forever changed the course of American history.
Filled with bars, restaurants, cosy Breton style houses and
pretty cobbled streets, Saint-Goustan is must-see Brittany.
The Benjamin Franklin Wharf is the starting point to a perfect day.
Boats and creperies complete the look but Benjamin Franklin's
celebrity and name is definitely the big fromage in this seafaring town.
but make sure you also bring your appetite.
Look for buttery sweet kouign amann, the pastry for pastry-lovers.
You may not be able to pronounce this unforgettable little taste of heaven,
but it gives new meaning to "eating your heart out."
And of course, this being France, keep a look out for
the oysters from southern Brittany.
It's a friendly little port and before long, we found ourselves joining in café conversations with the locals, laughing our hearts out with a gang of
girls celebrating the raunchiest bachelorette party I've ever seen....
My lips are sealed.
somehow defeat a global superpower?"**
Of course, for the French, there were significant consequences.
Who could have predicted the wordsmith of "Poor Richard's Almanac"
would cause so much political change in France as well?
Soon enough, the king and his royal entourage realized their folly.
Their treasury drained -- defeating the Brits required big bucks
in gold and manpower -- merci bien General Lafayette -- and before
you could say "il marche dans la merde" -- the monarchy toppled
and heads rolled in the French version of the Revolution.
Benjamin Franklin's Mission Impossible resulted
in the ultimate success for America.
Not only were they able to begin their great experiment in democracy
but they literally turned the page, rising to a new standard -- a global power
standing in the same light with the superpowers of the world, Britain and France.
Franklin's golden opportunity delivered measurable results:
"The world will never be the same."**
**from "Alexander Hamilton": lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Franklin's value to these United States of America is priceless.
His contribution to the republic will stand the test of time.
As we continue to make our way through the messy but beautiful challenges
we face as a democratic republic, we need to keep his words close to heart:
"When you've finished changing, you're finished."
May God Bless America and may we all be forever grateful to France
for offering the helping hand of friendship when we most needed it.
Keep on traveling to history's brightest spots on the map.
I hope you make your way to the birthplace of the French/American
marriage that binds us together now and forever in friendship.