Ben and I
Seven years ago, while on a family skiing vacation in Beaver Creek, Colorado, I spotted Benjamin Franklin sitting in front of an art store in a shopping plaza. It wasn't really Ben, of course, but it sure looked like him. He was sitting casually on a bench reading the Constitution of the United States. I admired his attitude because, like most ordinary authors, I only review my own stuff in private. But there he was, all 800 pounds of him, and I fell in love.
The salesperson told me that the original figure was at the University of Pennsylvania and that 20 others had been made. There were only a couple left in the public domain. He told me the price, and my ardor cooled a bit. After our vacation, we returned to Winter Park, but Ben stayed on my mind. I had a spot in the backyard that was just made for him. Everytime I went out there, I imagined myself sitting beside Ben on the bench and listening to his wisdom. He was a wise person who lived every moment to the fullest. He investigated lightning, invented reading glasses, brought men together in a common cause, made a lot of money from his own efforts, was compassionate to those in need and charmed the courts of Europe. He is a great role model for anyone striving to be his or her best.
When we returned to Beaver Creek the following year, the family teased me about Ben. However, he was not in front of the gallery. I asked about him and was told that there was only one replica not in private hands, and it was in Denver. However, the next day when I walked down that path, there was Ben. Apparently, he had a great urge to leave Denver. So I went into the store and made a dealI'd pay full price, and they would be responsible for getting it to my backyard. No one commented on my purchase when I mentioned it at lunch; they had been expecting it for a year.
Every year we have an ice cream social at the house, and that year Ben its star. We took photos of the guests sitting on his lap, mussing his hair or just standing with him. Everyone admired Ben for his real-life accomplishments and appreciated the artist's work, and the appreciated artist's work. George Lundeen was the one who brought Ben back to "life."
Ben became well-known and because the house sits on a lake, boats began cruising by just to catch a glimpse of him. At last year's ice cream social, the president of Rollins College, Rita Bornstein, became infatuated with my statue. She decided that it should be placed on the Rollins College campus, where the students could have the pleasure of his company. She pointed out that we spent half the year in Highlands, North Carolina, leaving Ben to fend for himself. This is not literally true, but he is alone a lot. Then Bornstein had the Rollins landscaper design a special area for Ben. The development vice president offered to assign the value of the piece to the Crosby Scholars program, which we had created to pay for four year's tuition for an outstanding student.
I felt like a small child being asked to give my teddy bear to some less fortunate little one. I knew that the students would appreciate having him around, particularly because they plan to place him in the garden near the library, where they congregate.
I am learning that Mr. Franklin is everyone's example of integrity and learning. He is as a person what we quality professionals should strive to create in our organizations. He always saw the big picture, and he spelled things out clearly so they could be understood. He expected words and actions to have meanings.
I have to make a decision about Ben this month. Any suggestions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any.
About the author
Philip B. Crosby, a popular speaker and founder of Philip Crosby Associates -- now PCA II -- is also the author of several books, including Quality Is Still Free (McGraw-Hill, 1995) and The Absolutes of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 1996). Visit his Web site at www.philipcrosby.com.