Class of 2013: The “Five Wells” of Renaissance Men

As June comes to a close, GCP congratulates all of the young men who are in the graduating class of 2013. Whether they are graduating from elementary, junior high, lower, middle, high school or college, these boys have worked hard and deserve praise for this important accomplishment. These transitions are important steps in their lives and should be heralded. We celebrate the hard work, focus, persistence and brain power that got them through. Congrats to their parents as well, for they have worked hard behind the scenes (and sometimes front and center on whatever stage necessary) to help their sons reach this goal.

I have a particular interest in the Class of 2013, as I have two sons in it, one having graduated from eighth grade, the other having graduated from high school. I have spent more time than usual the past few weeks beaming with pride at my sons. One is heading to high school where new academic and life challenges await, and the other is moving on to the next important chapter of life in college.

At my son’s high school graduation we were treated to a commencement speech from Dr. Robert M. Franklin, President Emeritus of Morehouse College. My son attended an all boys school from grades K-12, and it was particularly interesting to hear from a speaker who graduated from and then went on to run this all male historically Black college. Dr. Franklin had a great message for the young men in the Class of 2013: he challenged them to be “renaissance men with social conscience and global perspective.” A powerful prescription for success.

Dr. Franklin defined a renaissance man as “one who is widely, broadly educated”. He specified five qualities, or what he called “the five wells” which make up the renaissance man:

Well-Read: “Like Leonardo DaVinci, John F. Kennedy, Paul Robeson, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Renaissance man is first well-read”, said Dr. Franklin. He encouraged the boys to line their shelves with books. “Finance next to philosophy, poetry alongside physics…I urge you to read but read widely.”

Well-Spoken: “Have something to say and say it well…When you stand as public speakers remember the three B’s__be good, be brief and be seated”.

Well-Traveled: “Mark Twain suggested that travel is fatal to prejudice. But I love the Ghanian proverb, “never declare that your mother’s stew is the best in the world, if you have never left your village.” Dr. Franklin suggested that a good place to begin traveling would be the “BRIC nations” of Brazil, Russia, India and China, and added South Africa and Singapore as nations who are also having a global impact.

Well-Dressed: Dr. Franklin acknowledged that this one could be controversial, but that some parents would appreciate it: “Remember that long before people hear the quality of your intellect and your conversation, they will see you approaching from a distance. There is a time and place for every cultural costume, and so be appropriate.”

Well-Balanced: “Well-balanced, to possess a healthy mind in a healthy body, governed by healthy values. Avoid getting stuck in a daily routine rut. Work, but also play. Exercise, but also rest. Explore the world, but also know how to stay home and be content. Worship, listen, and learn from traditions that differ from yours.”

Following the five wells, says Dr. Franklin is the mark of the Renaissance man.

These five wells have stayed in my head since graduation day. Great advice from which all of our sons can benefit. (And our daughters too: we want to raise renaissance women as well.) Tomorrow, Dr. Franklin’s thoughts on how renaissance men find their “social conscience and global perspective”.

A thousand thanks to Dr. Robert M. Franklin for writing and delivering a terrific speech and providing GCP with a copy!

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