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By Raymond Thomas Pronk
Ever hear a speaker that got your attention and kept it for an entire speech?
Dr. Benjamin Carson, world-renowned neurosurgeon, told the National Prayer Breakfast audience in Washington that his mother, who had a third-grade education and worked three jobs as a domestic, knew he and his brother were smart, made them turn off the television and read two books a week from the public library and write reports about them.
“You know, after a while, I actually began to enjoy reading those books because we were very poor, but between the covers of those books I could go anywhere, I could be anybody, I could do anything. I began to read about people of great accomplishment; and as I read those stories, I began to see a connecting thread. I began to see that the person who has the most to do with you and what happens to you in life is you. You make decisions. You decide how much energy you want to put behind that decision. And I came to understand that I had control of my own destiny. And, at that point, I didn’t hate poverty anymore, because I knew it was only temporary. I knew I could change that. It was incredibly liberating for me, made all the difference.”
Carson commented upon education, fiscal irresponsibility, taxes and health care.
“Why is it so important that we educate our people? Because we don’t want to go down the pathway as so many pinnacle nations that have preceded us. I think particularly about ancient Rome. Very powerful. Nobody could even challenge them militarily, but what happened to them? They destroyed themselves from within. Moral decay, fiscal irresponsibility,” he said.
Carson would replace the existing federal income tax system with a flat and fair tax modeled after the tithe. He said, “What about our taxation system? So complex there is no one who can possibly comply with every jot and tittle of our tax system. If I wanted to get you, I could get you on a tax issue. That doesn’t make any sense. What we need to do is come up with something that is simple.”
He continued, “When I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the Universe, God, and he’s given us a system. It’s called tithe. Now we don’t necessarily have to do it 10 percent but it’s principle. He didn’t say, if your crops fail, don’t give me any tithes. He didn’t say, if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithes. So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality.”
A practicing physician, Carson briefly outlined his alternative solution to the health care crisis: “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’re born ’til the time you die. If you die, you can pass it on to your family members, and there’s nobody talking about death panels. We can make contributions for people who are indigent. Instead of sending all this money to some bureaucracy, let’s put it in their HSAs. Now they have some control over their own health care. And very quickly they’re going to learn how to be responsible.”
Carson said the response to his speech has been “overwhelmingly” positive.
Carson’s life is one of achievement and success through hard work and persistence. Carson graduated from Yale University, majoring in psychology and the University of Michigan, school of medicine. He completed his internship in general surgery and his residency in neurological surgery at The Johns Hopkins Medical Institution.
When he was 33, Carson became the youngest director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins.
Medical history was made in 1987 by Carson and his surgical team, when they operated for 22 hours and separated the back of the heads of conjoined twins (the Binder twins). The twins survived and live independently today.
Carson’s medical practice focuses on traumatic brain injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, achondroplasia, neurological and congenital disorders, craniosynostosis, epilepsy and trigeminal neuralgia.
In 1994 Carson and his wife, Candy, created the Carson Scholars Fund which awards each year a “$1,000 college scholarship for students in grades 4-11 who excel academically and are dedicated to serving their community.” More than 5,200 scholarships and medals have been awarded across the nation.
Dr. Carson with some of the Carson Scholars with their Olympic-size metals.
He has written more than 100 neurosurgical publications and several bestselling books including “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” “Think Big,” “The Big Picture,” “Take The Risk,” and his most recent, “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great.”
“Gifted Hands,” a made-for TV movie about Carson’s life starring Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. as Carson and Kimberly Elise as his mother Sonja was broadcast in 2007.
In 2008 Carson received the nation’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, from President George W. Bush in the White House.
Celebrate black history month by listening to Carson’s speech and viewing his compelling life story, both of which are readily available on YouTube.
Raymond Thomas Pronk is host of the Pronk Pops Show on KDUX web radio from 3-5 p.m. Fridays and author of the companion blog http://www.pronkpops.wordpress.com/
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Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson, Sr. (born September 18, 1951) is an African American neurosurgeon and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States, by President George W. Bush in 2008.
Carson was born in Detroit, Michigan and was raised by his single mother, Sonya Carson. He struggled academically throughout elementary school, but started to excel in middle school and throughout high school. After graduating with honors from Southwestern High School, he attended Yale University, where he earned a degree in Psychology. He chose to go to Yale because in College Bowl, an old knowledge competition TV program, he saw Yale compete against and defeat many other colleges, including Harvard. Carson wanted to participate in College Bowl, but the program was discontinued. From Yale, he attended University of Michigan Medical School.
Carson’s hand-eye coordination and three-dimensional reasoning skills made him a gifted surgeon. After medical school, he became a neurosurgery resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Starting off as an adult neurosurgeon, Carson became more interested in pediatrics. He believed that with children, “what you see is what you get, … when they’re in pain they clearly show it with a frown on their face or when they are happy they show it by smiling brightly.”
At age 33, he became the youngest major division director in Johns Hopkins history, as Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Carson’s other surgical innovations have included the first intrauterine procedure to relieve pressure on the brain of a hydrocephalic fetal twin, and a hemispherectomy, in which a young girl suffering from uncontrollable seizures had one half of her brain removed.
In 1987, Carson made medical history by being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins (the Binder twins) who had been joined at the back of the head (craniopagus twins). The 70-member surgical team, led by Carson, worked for 22 hours. At the end, the twins were successfully separated and can now survive independently. Carson recalls:
I looked at that situation. I said, ‘Why is it that this is such a disaster?’ and it was because they would always exsanguinate. They would bleed to death, and I said, ‘There’s got to be a way around that. These are modern times.’ This was back in 1987. I was talking to a friend of mine, who was a cardiothoracic surgeon, who was the chief of the division, and I said, ‘You guys operate on the heart in babies, how do you keep them from exsanguinating’ and he says, ‘Well, we put them in hypothermic arrest.’ I said, ‘Is there any reason that – if we were doing a set of Siamese twins that were joined at the head – that we couldn’t put them into hypothermic arrest, at the appropriate time, when we’re likely to lose a lot of blood?’ and he said, ‘No way .’ I said, ‘Wow, this is great.’ Then I said, ‘Why am I putting my time into this? I’m not going to see any Siamese twins.’ So I kind of forgot about it, and lo and behold, two months later, along came these doctors from Germany, presenting this case of Siamese twins. And, I was asked for my opinion, and I then began to explain the techniques that should be used, and how we would incorporate hypothermic arrest, and everybody said ‘Wow! That sounds like it might work.’ And, my colleagues and I, a few of us went over to Germany. We looked at the twins. We actually put in scalp expanders, and five months later we brought them over and did the operation, and lo and behold, it worked.
Awards and honors
Carson has received numerous honors and many awards over the years, including over 60 honorary doctorate degrees. He was also a member of the American Academy of Achievement, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, the [[Alpha Omega Alpha|Alpha
Publications and appearances
Carson has written four bestselling books published by Zondervan, an international Christian media and publishing company: Gifted Hands, The Big Picture, Take the Risk, and Think Big. The first book is an autobiography and two are about his personal philosophies of success that incorporate hard work and a faith in God; Carson is a Seventh-day Adventist. In a debate with Richard Dawkins, Francis Collins, and Daniel Dennett, Carson stated he doesn't believe in evolution: "I don't believe in evolution...evolution says that because there are these similarities, even though we can't specifically connect them, it proves that this is what happened."
A video documentary about Carson’s life titled Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was released by Zondervan in 1992. Subsequently in 2009, a separate television movie with the same title premiered on TNT on February 7, 2009, with Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr. in the lead role and Kimberly Elise portraying his mother.
On February 7, 2013, Dr. Carson was a key speaker at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast.
In June 2002 Carson was forced to cut back on his public appearances when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but the cancer was caught in time. He still operates on more than 300 children a year, but has been trying to shorten his days: prior to his cancer he used to work from 7:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night.
Carson and his wife Lacena “Candy” Rustin met at Yale in 1971 when he was a junior and she was a freshman; they married in 1975. Candy holds an M.B.A. degree and is an accomplished musician, and both are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Carson’s life and work was so admired in 2007 that a feature film was made about the doctor, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story”.
- (2011) America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 978-0310330714
- (2009) Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 0-310-21469-6
- (2008) Take The Risk, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 0-310-25973-8
- (2000) The Big Picture, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 978-0310225836
- (1996) Think Big, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 0-310-21459-9
- (1990) Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, Review & Herald Pub., ISBN 0-8280-0669-5
- ^ Ben Carson Biography – Facts, Birthday, Life Story – Biography.com
- ^ a b Conversation from Penn State: Ben Carson Interview.
- ^ Biography and Video Interview of Benjamin Carson at Academy of Achievement.
- ^ Richard Dawkins & Daniel Dennett vs. Francis Collins & Benjamin Carson : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive
- ^ Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (2009) at the Internet Movie Database
- ^ ”Zondervan Author Ben Carson Gives Keynote at 2013 National Prayer Breakfast”. prnewswire.com. Retrieved 8 February 2013.
- ^ Encyclopedia of World Biography: Biography of Benjamin S. Carson.
- ^ ”7 FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT DR. CARSON — THE PRAYER BREAKFAST SPEAKER WHOSE SPEECH IN FRONT OF OBAMA WENT VIRAL”. TheBlaze. 8 February 2013.
- ^ ”Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story”. IMBd. 7 February 2009.
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