Dr. Ben Carson, a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon, gave a keynote address before a fellowship of Christians at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 7, at which President Barack Obama and Mrs. Michelle Obama were seated on the dais and were on camera the entire time.
Who knew that this black man, world renown for his skills and talents in medicine, and head of his department at the famous Johns Hopkins Medical Center, would use Jesus as his role model to deliver his own “state of the union” address.
And that is what Carson did. Often referring to himself in self-deprecating language — growing up in poverty; raised by a single mom (who refused to be a victim); being the “dumbest” in his class; and with little or no motivation, at least in his early years — Carson talked about how he used his native intelligence, strong encouragement from his mom and his sheer will power to excel.
The author of several motivational books — one an autobiography — made what some are calling a “brilliant” speech in which he gave a history lesson, a discourse on the fiscal crisis, commentary on the state of the education system, and patriotism.
(He was eloquent in his portrayal of Frances Scott Key’s inspiration for writing the Star Spangled Banner, better known as the National Anthem, recalling the heroic efforts of the soldiers who died at the base of the flag to keep it upright against the British threat to burn it to ashes during the Battle of 1812).
What struck me most about Carson’s speech was that he recognized that while most folks in Congress are lawyers (he added that he has nothing against lawyers), he reminded the audience that lawyers are trained to win — the Democratic lawyers and the Republican lawyers appear to be in a death fight to win at any cost — but he advised that what we need are solutions to what he described as problems that can be very easily fixed. Using parables, after the fashion of his role model Jesus, he laid out a few very simple solutions to the national debt, taxation policies (based on a tithing premise) and the education system (using another reminder about the time when it was illegal to teach slaves to read, primarily because it would incite ideas of freedom but how, in fact, education frees people to become independent).
I think some of his solutions may have been a bit too simplistic but I also think his main point was profound: that we are a nation of thinkers who have access to resources to train and educate all our citizens to devise the best solutions to any problem that we face. And with that I agree.
Carson puts his money where his mouth is. He and his wife, the former Lacrena “Candy” Rustin, have established the Carson Scholars program that has awarded more than 5,000 scholarships to students, primarily in Title 1 (poor) schools, who not only show academic progress but are also measured for being humanitarians. He says he wants people to “care about people” — much like I have been writing about in this newspaper for almost two years.
His most salient point was his discourse on the danger of being politically correct, or “PC.”
Carson correctly noted that this country was founded on the strength of its guarantee of freedom of expression of ideas without the fear of reprisals from a monarchy.
The three branches of government were deliberately designed to offer the citizenry opportunities to speak, not always with a unified point of view but, hopefully, respectfully, if in disagreement. He went on to declare that always trying to be “PC” is dangerous, resulting in the muzzling of so many of the smart people in our country.
For me, now that we have just about got all the sub-components of this great nation caught up to their equal rights, thanks to the many amendments to the Constitution (are there any groups still left out?), I am growing eager to hear the conversation amongst the multilingual, the intergenerational, the biracial, the gender varied and differently abled folk free from the hamstrings of early 20th century political correctness.
Here is one conversation I’d like to hear: If Dr. Ben Carson could use his great skills to predict your child’s brain development that would govern his or her (and the nation’s) future, or a specific set of behavior or characteristics, which would you choose to have manipulated?
Take your pick from intelligence, compassion, aggression, leadership, generosity, cooperation, patience, spirituality, humility, gender specificity.
What would Jesus, Ben Carson’s role model, do?
Antonia Williams-Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org