In 1727, Benjamin Franklin formed a group called the Junto. The group was a self-improvement club that met weekly for several decades, organized largely around the discussion of 13 “virtues” identified by Franklin:
Now, our friends at the 92Y are re-imagining the Junto for the modern era, and we’re pleased to join them. The Family Dinner Club and the 92Y proudly present a shared toolkit for forming your own Junto — now called Benjamin Franklin Circles — and turning your mealtimes with friends and family into opportunities to have even deeper conversations about things that matter.
The purpose of Benjamin Franklin Circles is to unite around two shared goals: Improving ourselves, and improving our world. Through talking about Franklin’s original 13 virtues in the context of the present day, we can commit to making better and more conscious choices about our own behavior and work with others to spread those virtues through acts of kindness and good deeds. Whether you choose to start your own formal Benjamin Franklin Circle, or use our guidance to shape regular conversations at your family dinner table, we encourage you to draw inspiration from the wisdom of the past to shape a positive future (and have fun doing so!)
If you’re wondering “How can I use this at my dinner table? Aren’t my kids too young? Won’t they be bored?” remember that you never need to mention Ben Franklin or the word “virtues” to have a great conversation about these ideas! Our own Executive Director Lynn Barendsen asked her kids why they thought humility was important and received the illuminating response, “Because you don’t want people to think you’re a dolt.” Clearly, kids are capable of cutting to the chase! Give a Benjamin Franklin-inspired conversation a try, and see how it impacts your dinner table.