Fla. Thrift Week Observance Kicks Off On Ben Franklin's Birthday

Jan 17, 2013

Benjamin Franklin impersonator Lloyd Wheeler talks to Killearn Lakes Elementary students as part of the James Madison Institute's Thrift Week kickoff.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU-FM

Elementary school children across Florida are getting a lesson in thrift this week, courtesy of limited-government think tank, the James Madison Institute. Thrift Week kicked off Thursday with Benjamin Franklin paying some Tallahassee students a visit.

If founding father Benjamin Franklin were still alive, he would have turned 307 on Thursday.

Lloyd Wheeler, a Franklin impersonator, said he would spend his birthday talking to this fine group of students and maybe having a mug of rum punch later this evening.”

Wheeler talked to fourth- and fifth-graders at Killearn Lakes Elementary School. The talks are part of a game called “R U Smarter Than A Franklin County Fifth Grader?,” named after the county where it was first played during last year’s Thrift Week.  

James Madison Institute’s  Bill Mattox leads the game.

“Here’s our next question, guys. Listen carefully. With which two objects that begin with the letter ‘K’ did Benjamin Franklin test his ideas about lightning and electricity?” he asked.

The kids not only learned about keys and kites, but also about saving money to buy things they want.

Mattox said, Thrift Week first started as a national movement in the early 1900s but went out of fashion in the 1960s when the attitude shifted toward instant gratification.  Now, he said, people like Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater are once again officially observing Thrift Week with proclamations.

“Obviously a lot of people have gotten themselves in trouble by spending beyond their means or living beyond their means, but one of the key things about thrift that we want people to understand is that it’s not just about saving money but it’s also about hard work and earning, as well as about stewardship and giving to others,” Mattox said.

During Thrift Week, the James Madison Institute is putting out a booklet called “All About the Benjamins: Understanding the Value of Thrift” in newspapers all over the state. The institute estimates its curriculum has already reached 300,000 students.