Friday, March 23, 2018

Prescription for America: Dr. Ben Carson

Monday, May 4, 2015

Meet Dr. Ben Carson, ghetto graduate, renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, author, philanthropist and possible — maybe even probable — candidate for the president of the United States, whose acclaim exploded on the national scene when he took on the policies of the Obama administration at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast with President Barack Obama sitting within 10 feet of the dais.
Meet Dr. Ben Carson, ghetto graduate, renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, author, philanthropist and possible — maybe even probable — candidate for the president of the United States, whose acclaim exploded on the national scene when he took on the policies of the Obama administration at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast with President Barack Obama sitting within 10 feet of the dais.

We all know about fairy tales, stories that range from those originating in folklore to more modern stories defined as literary fairy tales.

Wikipedia, the Internet encyclopedia, even has a long list of worldwide fairy tales dating back to the 17th Century, 570 to be exact.

We’re all familiar with how they begin — “Once upon a time …” — and end — “and they lived happily ever after.”

And while most would say that fairy tales are fictional in nature, how many times have we heard a relative or friend say someone’s fairy tale came true, whether it be a trip to Walt Disney World for a child stricken with a life-threatening disease, the college graduate who lands that dream job or the woman who breaks through the glass ceiling to become president and CEO of a nationally-known company.

This is about someone whose story already has a “fairy tale” ending, but one that may be headed toward an even greater sequel, perhaps as the leader of the free world.

Meet Dr. Ben Carson, ghetto graduate, renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, author, philanthropist and possible — maybe even probable — candidate for the president of the United States, whose acclaim exploded on the national scene when he took on the policies of the Obama administration at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast with President Barack Obama sitting within 10 feet of the dais.

During that speech, Carson made politically conservative comments on several social and fiscal issues, including political correctness, education, the national debt, healthcare reform and taxation.

Political correctness, he said, is dangerous because one of the founding principles of the United States was freedom of thought and freedom of expression.

“Political correctness muffles people,” he said. “It puts a muzzle on them.”

Throw out Obamacare, he said, offering another healthcare plan.

“Here’s my solution. When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record, and a health savings account to which money can be contributed, pretax from the time you are born, to the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members.” Carson, an avowed and outspoken Christian, talked favorably about the flat tax system, which he prefers to call a “proportional tax” based on the Biblical principle of the tithe.

Carson believes his speech, delivered primarily off the cuff to the angst of a White House that had requested an advanced copy, was inspired of God.

“And obviously it resonated extremely strongly with millions of people across America. It was something that needed to be said. It needed to be brought to a conscious level what was going on in our nation, and the fact that we were being intimidated into just accepting these changes without debate and without question because we’re all afraid of political correctness.”

He gave a post mortem to a national broadcasting network.

 “There are a number of policies that I don’t believe lead to the growth of our nation and don’t lead to the elevation of our nation,” he told ABC News when asked about his speech. “I don’t want to sit here and say all of his policies are bad. What I would like to see more often in this nation is an open and intelligent conversation, not people just casting aspersions at each other.”

The speech, since seen by millions on the Internet, ignited what for a while remained a backroom call for him to run for president in 2016, including a favorable editorial in the Wall Street Journal. But now that call has moved front and center as conservative Republicans begin to view potential contenders for the GOP nomination.

In recent weeks, he’s formed a PAC to explore a possible run for the White House, prompting noted author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson — like Carson, an African American — to write in the Huffington Post that “the silliness about a Ben Carson presidential bid just got sillier,” questioning exactly “what makes him real political timber, let alone presidential stuff?”

Yet when Carson won a one-county presidential straw poll in Iowa in late August, the Democratic National Committee took notice, sending a short e-mail to reporters about “Ben Carson’s 2016 Momentum,” drawing attention to previous headlines about Carson, including “Ben Carson: ‘Obamacare’s worst thing since slavery’” and “Ben Carson: America’s now ‘very much’ like Nazi Germany.”

The fact that he is so seriously considering a run for president just might be the result of Carson believing the right man or woman has not yet stepped forward.

“We would prefer an alternative to running,” he said when asked during a spring interview with Truckload Authority about whether he and his wife Candy had discussed a possible candidacy. “She feels about it the way I do,” Carson replied. “It would be wonderful if somebody would come along who really understood the Constitution, who understood freedom and the importance of our Judeo-Christian traditions, who understood how business works and who understood that our role in the world is as a leader, but not as a meddler in everything. If that person came along and caught fire, then I wouldn’t need to run. But if it doesn’t happen I obviously would have to give it extreme consideration.”

He quickly added that if a decision was made to run he could hit the ground running quickly.

“There is a tremendous amount of support from all facets of society. It really is a little overwhelming to be honest with you,” he concluded.

So exactly who is this Ben Carson?

He’s a self-acknowledged street fighter, a terrible student, a “dude” who thought it was cool to wear flashy clothes, someone who was called a dummy, and a young man so filled with anger about his poverty-filled life in the ghetto that one day in a temper-induced rage, he tried to stab someone.

“Had it not been for that belt buckle [on the person he tried to stab], I probably would not have been talking to you today. It’s interesting how God takes an incident like that and makes a career out of it,” Carson said looking back on those years.

Then he paused to reflect on the reasons for that anger.

“I came to the conclusion it was because I was selfish,” he says today. “Somebody was always in MY space and they took MY thing, me MY. I begin praying and I picked up the Bible. There were all these virtues in Proverbs about anger and I came to the understanding that if you take yourself out of the center of the circle then everything won’t be about you. After being locked in the bathroom so to speak, I came out with that understanding and didn’t have an angry outburst after that. That has been helpful in my adult life, especially in my post-retirement years when some people tried to anger me by saying things.”

Carson and his brother were raised by a mother whose husband she later learned was a bigamist and who abandoned the family when Carson was 8 years old.

“She only had a third-grade education and couldn’t afford to stay in Detroit so we ended up moving to Boston to live with her older sister and brother-in-law,” Carson remembers. “Very typical ghetto setting. All the things you could imagine — rats and roaches. My mother worked extremely hard, two or three jobs at a time, because she didn’t want to be on welfare. She didn’t see anyone come off welfare that went on it, so she didn’t want on it to start with. Occasionally she would have to accept food stamps, but she worked very hard to remain independent. Eventually we moved back to Detroit, still in a horrible neighborhood but at least she was independent at that point.”

And she cared deeply about the future of her children.

When Carson began to fail in school, his mother learned his eyesight was bad, so she got him glasses.

“I went from an ‘F’ student to a ‘D’ student,” Carson said, but his mother was anything but pleased with his educational progress.

“I was happy, but my mother was not happy.”

His mother made them turn off the television and start reading books, which Carson thought was a “horrible” idea, yet it was an idea that would lead him to the field of medicine where he became one of the top, if not the top, pediatric neurosurgeon in the world.

“You have to do what your parents tell you and an interesting thing started to happen. That stimulated me because I really did hate being called dummy. I started reading everything I could get my hands on and in a year and a half I went from the bottom of the class to the top of the class,” Carson said. “The other thing that happened was I started reading about people. I began to understand one very important principle and that is this: The person who has to deal with what happens to you in life is you. You could commit to decisions, you could decide how much energy you want to put behind it. Once I understood that I didn’t mind being poor anymore. I knew it was temporary and I could change it. I stopped listening to other negative people around me who were saying that the system is against you and people are against you and I started planning my career as a physician.”

His mother was all about teaching her children life lessons, too.

At the point in his life when fancy, expensive clothes and hanging out were more cool to him than education, his grades started to suffer again.

It took about a year and a mother’s touch to disabuse him of that notion.

“That dawned on me after the day she said, ‘I am going to give you all the money I make this week scrubbing toilets and washing floors. I want you to take the money and pay the bills and buy the food and with all that’s left over you can go out and buy all the fancy clothes you want.’

“And as I sat down to allocate the money, I realized that my mother with a third-grade education was a financial genius and I was a fool. I never asked for clothes again after that. I got back to business and started studying again. Guys would call me names, but I told them ‘Let’s see what I’m doing in 20 years and let’s see what you’re doing in 20 years,’ and that usually shut them up. When I graduated from high school they voted me most likely to succeed and those kinds of things helped me begin to realize you don’t necessarily go with the majority, you don’t necessarily do what everybody else is doing if you want to be a person who achieves something.”

Carson’s love for medicine began during his childhood.

He’d always loved to hear anything and everything about medicine.

“The way I got interested in Johns Hopkins Hospital (where he would later become director of pediatric neurosurgery) was all the news stories featuring Johns Hopkins. But also at church and Bible school they talked about missionary doctors and they seemed to lead exciting lives traveling all over the world to bring not only physical, but mental and spiritual healing and they were some of the most noble people on earth,” Carson recalled. “So I decided when I was 8 years old that I was going to be a missionary doctor.”

At age 13, however, he decided he’d rather be a physician with a practice in America, and was planning to be a psychiatrist until he got to medical school after earning his bachelor’s degree at Yale University.

When he enrolled at the University of Michigan Medical School, he started thinking and thinking and thinking.

“God gives everybody special talent. And when I started thinking back over my life, I realized that I had a lot of eye-hand coordination and the ability to think in three dimensions and that I was a very careful person. I put all those factors together and started thinking about all my interest in the brain and that I should be a brain surgeon. A lot of people thought that was a very strange idea because at that time there had only been eight black brain surgeons in the world. I didn’t worry about that because I felt that was the talent God had given me.”

Talent, indeed.

In the mid 1980s, at age 33 he became the youngest major division director in Johns Hopkins history as director of pediatric neurosurgery. He was also a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center. He would remain at Johns Hopkins until last year when he decided it was time to retire “at the top of my game.”

Along the way, he successfully performed brain surgery on thousands upon thousands of children, exhibiting the traits of a doctor who’s willing to take life and death into his or her own hands.

“You don’t get a lot of timid people going into neurosurgery because you have to have a fair amount of confidence that you can open up somebody’s head and go in there and do procedures and they will come out better than when you started,” Carson said. “It’s one of the reasons a lot of people think neurosurgeons are very arrogant because many of them are. But there are some who are very reasonable people, particularly the pediatric people because they deal with children a lot and they really need a different type of personality. But one of the real key factors is that one has to be very, very calm. You can’t be an excitable person, because when you’re deep in the middle of somebody’s brain and something goes wrong, you have to be real calm and you have to run through very quickly what the possibilities are and what you can do about it. Those things have to be decided instantly because you usually have a matter of minutes before something terrible happens.”

As a pediatric neurosurgeon, Carson may be best known for two surgeries to separate conjoined twins.

In 1987, Carson made medical history by being the first surgeon in the world to successfully separate conjoined twins — the Binder twins — conjoined at the back of the head. Operations to separate twins joined in this way had always failed, resulting in the death of one or both of the infants. Carson agreed to undertake the operation and led a 50-member surgical team that worked for 22 hours. At the end, the twins were successfully separated and now survive independently.

The operation received such wide acclaim that Carson’s life story up to that point was made into a 2009 movie titled “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” starring Cuba Gooding Jr. The movie flashed back to Carson’s childhood and ended with the doctor sharing news of the successful operation with the parents.

But not all medical outcomes are successful, and in 2003, Carson was part of a team in Singapore that attempted to separate the 29-year-old Bijani twins, only to see them die on the operating table.

“I always pray and ask God for wisdom on what to do and He always gets the credit for the success. But He also gets the blame for the failure. He’s ultimately in control and He’s given us one task. That task is to do the best you can with what He’s given you and as long as I know I’ve worked as hard as I can and done the best that I can, then I can move on, recognizing that I don’t have the ability to control everything,” Carson says. “And that’s a tremendous advantage, to be honest with you, because a lot of people you know become very depressed when something bad happens. They beat themselves up and think, ‘Well, if only I had done this or that and the other,’ but you can’t go about your life like that. And a lot of people do that outside of surgery, too. They make a mistake or they repeat a mistake and they conclude that they’re evil and they just give up on life and become depressed and obviously that’s not the way we’re supposed to be.”

Carson, who received the President’s Medal of Honor from President George W. Bush, says the most gratification in his life has come since he retired from his medical career.

“Because I operated on so many thousands of patients, there’s virtually nowhere I go that either one of my patients or a family member doesn’t come up to me and say, ‘I have a friend that you operated on’ and to recognize that you touched so many lives in a very positive way is truly the most gratifying thing. Many parents of children I didn’t even operate on come up to me and say their child had a procedure that I popularized and say, ‘Thank you for what you did because you made it possible for my kid to get operated on.’ And just to recognize that you’ve been able to use the talent that God gave you to affect so many people in a positive way, not to mention all the ones who come up and say, ‘I read your book, or my kid read your book and it changed his life and now they’re a terrific student doing very well,’” is gratifying.

He’s also gratified by the success of the Carson Scholars Fund he and his wife established to address what Carson calls an educational crisis in America.

“We started it 18 years ago; we gave out 25 scholarships, one for each county in the state of Maryland. And as of this year we’ve given out over 6,200 scholar awards in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. And many teachers tell us that when you put a scholar in their classroom the GPA of the whole class goes up because now the kids have something else to aim at. Before it’s just the quarterback or the all-state wrestler, but now it’s that kid who’s so smart that they’ve brought recognition to their school; there’s a big trophy that is given out along with all the sports trophies; they get a medal, they get to go to a special awards ceremony and it’s just very gratifying.”

Another facet of the Carson Scholars Fund are reading rooms in schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia with the goal of supporting local schools so they can create a nurturing environment for children to feel safe and secure as they develop their reading skills.

“These reading rooms are the kind of places no little child would pass up,” Carson says. “They’re decorated a lot of times with a theme that is consistent with the geographical area where they’re located. For instance in Denver, some of the reading rooms have teepees and little riding horses and things of that nature and one of the reading rooms near the coast a parent built a pier that goes out to sea, and they pipe in the sound of the waves. It’s really fascinating the imagination some of the people put into designing and building of these reading rooms. Children get points for the number of books they read and the amount of time they spend in the reading room and they can accumulate them and turn them in for prizes. In the beginning they do it for the prizes but it doesn’t take long before it has a powerful effect on their academic performance. And really that’s so vital for our nation that we re-elevate education to the place that it should be, because that is really the key to escaping poverty.”

As he moves toward a decision on whether to become part of an already overly crowded field of GOP contenders, it’s Carson’s message of hope for America that has many Americans shouting the battle cry of those who want him to “Run, Ben, Run.”

It’s a hope that forms the basis for his latest book, “One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future,” a New York Times best seller published last May.

“The thing that gives me the most hope is traveling around the country,” he said.

As he toured the country to promote his book, there were, in Carson’s words, record-breaking turnouts.

“People were coming out and saying, ‘You mean I’m not the only one who has common sense, someone else has common sense?’ And they would get excited about that.”

People, he interjected, have been beaten down by “the constant barrage of secular progressive media and politicians and the No. 1 rule of Saul Alinski, the socialist, who wrote the book ‘Rules for Radicals,’ which said you make the majority feel that their opinion is irrelevant, that no one thinks that way anymore, and that the only way intelligent people think is the way that secular progressives think. And of course [secular progressives believe] if you can co-op the media in the process, you’ll go much further and much faster. I actually encourage people to read books like ‘Rules for Radicals’ so you have a much better idea of what the agenda is for those who want to fundamentally change the law in America. From the land of the free and the home of the brave, to a ‘utopia,’ they call it, where no one has to worry about anything.”

It’s where the government redistributes everything in an “equitable” way and a “fair” way, Carson relates.

“That, of course, has been tried in a number of other places and the only thing that ever happens with consistency is that you develop a small ruling class, a massive dependent class and an ever-shrinking middle class. Those are exactly the things that are happening in America today. And we have to recognize it.”

His politics, obviously, are quite the opposite of the man he would replace should he decide to run in the 2016 race.

“We’ve created an almost permanently depressed economy because the government heavies put regulations upon the throat of big business and small business,” he says. “We have ever-increasing taxes and we insinuate these taxes into everything. Family income has declined over the last five or six years. And that’s just going to continue with these kinds of policies that make it so easy for people to receive handouts. In fact, in 35 of the 50 states, you can get more by just sitting back and accepting federal relief than you can working a minimum wage job.”

Socialists, he believes, want to stir up class warfare.

“In the meantime, their power continues to grow because those who feel that they’re being treated unfairly, their ranks will swell and when you reach the critical mass, you’ve permanently changed the whole social setting because you can always say, ‘I’ll be your savior, I’ll take care of you and those rich people over there, they’re evil. And you know we will deal with them and we will take what they have and we will give it to you.’ And people say, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah! That’s a great idea.’”

But it has never worked and that is key, Carson continues.

“What we — and when I say we, I’m talking about people with common sense and with solid Judeo-Christian conservative values — have to do is when we gain control, we have to govern the way God would have us govern for everybody, not for a special interest group. We have to get rid of the unnecessary regulations so we can unfetter the business sector. We have to develop our natural resources, our energy resources that God has given us,” and not allow the Environmental Protection Agency to depress those resources.

“Finally, we have to be not only smart enough to read and inform ourselves about what’s going on, but we also have to be courageous enough to stand up for what we believe because the way that the secular progressives win is by getting everybody else to just go along. Think about Nazi Germany. Most of those people did not believe what Hitler believed, but did they say anything, did they do anything? No. And as has been famously said, ‘All that is required for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.’” Carson is certainly not sitting back doing nothing.

It could well be that his professional career, which he says has been dedicated to the well-being of children, will ultimately weigh heavily as he decides whether to run for president.

“I recognized some time ago that we were destroying the future of children. I recognized that for my own children and my own two grandchildren as well as those many patients I’ve taken care of over the course of time, and the many students I interact with through our scholarship and reading programs,” he says. “I could sit back and just enjoy the fruits of my labor, live very comfortably for the rest of my life and not worry about anybody else, but I couldn’t do that. I would not be able to sleep at night knowing that I had turned my back on an obligation to try to make a difference for those children.”

Think about the economic future of those children, he continues.

“We have a $17.5 trillion national debt. I mean that’s just a staggering amount of money. If you tried to pay that back at a rate of $10 million a day it would take you 4,700 years. I mean that is just mind-boggling, and you look historically at nations that have continued to accumulate that, France and Spain in the 17th and 18th centuries, and then you look at Greece, man. You see what’s happened. And the arrogance of us to think that we can do it and avoid the same catastrophe is pretty mind-boggling. But of course when you begin to read neo-Marxist literature, you begin to realize that they say the way to bring the United States down is through unsustainable debt and it makes you wonder, are there people who don’t have your best interests in mind who are driving all of this and particularly by creating unsustainable programs that require enormous amounts of money, like Obamacare?”

Carson poses more questions.

How do you provide the maximum in healthcare to people who absolutely can’t even contribute to their own financial well-being without bankrupting a country?

How do you provide food stamps for virtually anybody who wants them and housing subsidies for anybody who fills out an application?

“These are unsustainable things that just continue to drive the debt and it seems to me that if someone was truly interested in the welfare of the nation, what they would be doing is asking the question, ‘Why in the economic freedom index has the United States dropped from No. 1 to No. 12? Why are all these other countries passing us up? Why did Canada lower its top corporate tax rate from where ours was to 15 percent a few years ago? And why is there that big sucking sound that Ross Perot used to talk about of all our business going up there?

“These are not hard concepts to understand and it makes me wonder — and I talk about this in the book — if there are people who intentionally keep the economy suppressed because if we had a roaring economy there would be no appetite for all these programs. And things would fundamentally change in America.”

All of which sounds like a man who will — as many now wish — would run and win in 2016, and perhaps help Americans “live happily ever after.”

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at

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