Removing the name of Benjamin Franklin from our high school is very personal to me. Admission to Ben Franklin was my first major achievement, as it was to so many who later excelled in a broad range of spectacular endeavors. No matter what your socioeconomic status, Franklin made you competitive with students from the most elite private and public schools at home and across the nation.
In short, Franklin is more than a name for a school, it is a community of pride in accomplishment. Even outside Louisiana, when you tell people you went to Franklin, many will respond: "You must be very smart!"
The nation has all too late become much more aware of its history, and especially the stain of slavery. We all would like to ask our forefathers, how could they think they had the right to own people? How could they attend any religious service and bestow a lesser status on another soul?
Yes, Benjamin Franklin did own slaves, for a part of his life. Once enlightened, however, he undertook to provide education and resources to African Americans — doing more to help than many who may not have owned human beings, but simply turned their backs on this horrific practice and failed to help eradicate this blight on America's history.
By removing Franklin's name from our school, New Orleans is focusing on this aspect of his life, failing utterly to learn from his story — that once an error is recognized it must be corrected. Removing Franklin's name fails to recognize so many of his accomplishments that our institution stands for: a free press (he was one of America's earliest, most accomplished publishers and editors), scientific curiosity and invention (his work in electricity), and above all his embrace of democracy and opposition to tyranny. Every graduate of Franklin should recognize and stand for these attributes. By erasing his name, you effectively are giving in to the wave of 'know-nothing' tyranny that threatened to sweep our fledgling republic and that Franklin fought gamely to resist. Before undertaking such an action, please reread the minutes of the Continental Congress and see how resolutely Franklin stood up to the real slave owners of the deep Southern states — or watch the film "1776."
Above all, now is a time when our country needs healing. By focusing on the enlightened Franklin, the focus will be directed to the good he did. Examining only the negative merely serves to increase the divisiveness that is itself a plague on America. Instead, let us take positive actions and not act vindictively, thereby honoring Franklin, the man, and all the graduates who associate his name with his excellence and embrace of democratic values.
PAMELA S. TITLE
commercial real estate executive