National Prayer Breakfast speech
On February 7, 2013, Carson was the keynote speaker at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. Despite the fact that all speakers are told by organizers to steer clear of politics, Carson broke with the non-political tradition of the National Prayer Breakfast and directly criticized President Barack Obama’s policies on healthcare, the national debt, and taxation. His observations, which some have called conservative, created an immediate national reaction. The YouTube video of the breakfast reached over two million views in six days. (Two identical YouTube clips equal over 2 million views.) Conservative commentators from Rush Limbaugh, to Fox News commentators Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto widely praised the speech as speaking “truth to power”. On February 8, 2013, The Wall Street Journal had an article titled: “Ben Carson for President”.
During the speech, he addressed political correctness: “The PC [Politically Correct] Police are out in force at all times … We have to get over this sensitivity … PC is dangerous, because you see, this country, one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression. And it [PC] muffles people. It puts a muzzle on them.” On education, he compared our abysmal graduation rates with 200 years ago: “In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville came to our country… anybody finishing the second grade was completely literate.” About healthcare: “Here’s my solution. When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account [HSA], to which money can be contributed, pre-tax from the time you are born, to the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members”. He also touched on U.S. national debt: “Our deficit is a big problem, think about it. And our national debt is 16 and one-half trillion dollars.”
Conservative Fox News pundit and contributor Cal Thomas opined that Carson’s remarks were inappropriate and that he should apologize to President Obama. In an interview with Neil Cavuto, Carson defended himself by saying “Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies.” Carson appeared on the Fox News program Hannity on Friday February 8th, and was asked about a possible run for the White House. Dr. Carson responded: “If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it, I would.”
About Benjamin Carson
Benjamin Solomon “Ben” Carson, Sr. (born September 18, 1951) is a 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 after his mother reduced his television time and required him to read two books a week and produce written reviews for her, he 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.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.