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Benjamin Franklin Citizenship Initiative

The Benjamin Franklin Citizenship Initiative is a public education and outreach effort that educates, enlists and engages Pennsylvanians in the essence of our participatory democracy.

Why is Benjamin Franklin the PennSERVE representative?

Photo of Ben Franklin speaking to a crowd
Benjamin Franklin believed that people volunteering together in a spirit of cooperation can accomplish great things. Driven by a strong sense of civic duty, he immersed himself in his community, and his nation. Always mindful of the “greater good,” he helped establish and improve institutions such as circulating libraries, public hospitals, volunteer fire departments, and intellectual societies.
PennSERVE salutes Benjamin Franklin and has asked an actor depicting Franklin to travel with PennSERVE representatives across the state spreading the word about volunteerism. In 2003, he was at the opening of the Constitution Center in Philadelphia, at the Musikfest in Bethlehem and at Keystone College in Scranton. Look out for Ben in your area.

What is the Citizenship Initiative?

The PennSERVE Benjamin Franklin Citizenship Initiative is a public education and outreach effort that educates, enlists and engages Pennsylvanians in the essence of our participatory democracy. By heightening awareness among citizens of all ages on the value of civic engagement and community service, PennSERVE hopes to increase the amount and quality of human capital available to assist in strengthening Pennsylvania communities.
PennSERVE makes volunteerism visible by finding occasions to visit communities (often with Benjamin Franklin along) and spread the word about citizenship involvement. At each occasion, citizens in attendance are given the opportunity to take the PennSERVE Pledge.

Three appearances in 2003 highlight the concept:

Opening of the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia
PennsSERVE utilized the historical theme of the event and the state’s prominent role in the nation’s founding to launch its Citizenship Initiative at this high visibility venue, which was nationally televised and drew several thousands of attendees. Not only did PennSERVE ‘s association with this event offer outstanding impact and the unique opportunity to encourage thousands of citizens to become civically engaged, but it also introduced the familiar historical figure, Benjamin Franklin, who will represent a continuous theme for the remainder of this public education effort, the motto of which will be “A Revolutionary Concept in Community Service.” Televised on local TV affiliate, and covered in local newspaper.
Keynote address to Pennsylvania Association for Volunteerism
At the annual conference of the Pennsylvania Association for Volunteerism in Pittsburgh on July 16th, Karen Kaskey was the featured speaker. The historical character of Ben Franklin was included as part of the address, highlighting the importance of community service in our Commonwealth from Franklin’s days to the present. Following the presentation, Ben Franklin and the Executive Director visited an AmeriCorps early childhood education site at which Ben engaged the 3 and 4 year olds in reading and discussion on “what it means to serve your community.” A Pittsburgh Post Gazette photographer captured a photo of Ben Franklin with one of the preschoolers. The photo appeared prominently in the daily paper the next day (reaching hundreds of thousands readers) and on the paper’s website, underscoring the benefits of a visual representation, and a familiar, historical theme to advance the public education message.
Salute to Volunteers at the Musikfest's 20th anniversary
Along with the Governor, the PennSERVE Executive Director attended the Musikfest event in Bethlehem on August 1st. This festival is one of the largest volunteer-driven events in the state, with more than 2,000 volunteers annually involved in planning and implementation. Accompanied by the Ben Franklin character, Karen Kaskey participated in the opening ceremonies of this popular ten-day event by riding in the opening parade in car that prominently featured a PennSERVE banner. Photos of the Governor with Ben Franklin were also captured as part of the event, and will be disseminated as appropriate. Local newspaper covered the story, referencing PennSERVE and the importance of volunteerism.
Do you have a local event at which civic engagement can be celebrated and encouraged? Contact PennSERVE to see if a representative (and Ben) can visit your area to administer the Pledge.