The Ben Carson I Remember

The Ben Carson I Remember November 8, 2015

Gifted HandsI met Dr. Benjamin Carson back in, oh, about 1990. He was younger then (and of course, so was I). The first edition of his book Gifted Hands had just come out and he was a hometown hero in Detroit, where I was working at evangelical Christian radio station WMUZ-FM.

Back then, a campaign for the Presidency wasn’t even a twinkle in his eye. He was a neurosurgeon, and a good one. He was a man of faith, and a devoted son.

At the time Carson came to the WMUZ studios for an interview with then-evangelical pastor Al Kresta, he didn’t actually live in Detroit. He was already a successful neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he had just led a team of 70 skilled surgeons and medical professionals who successfully separated conjoined twins. The twins–seven-month-old Patrick and Benjamin Binder from Ulm, Germany–were joined at the skull; or more specifically, at the sagittal superior sinus, a critical vein which drains blood from the brain as well as cerebrospinal fluid. Twins joined at this complicated location rarely survive past their second birthday; so Carson’s high-tech solution offered at least the hope of a longer life for the two boys.

The delicate surgery was a success, and the Binder twins live normal lives today. Dr. Carson went on to participate in several other groundbreaking separation surgeries, and performed the first successful surgery on a child still in the womb.

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In Gifted Hands, Dr. Carson tells the story of the Binder surgery–but also of the preparatory years, his years growing up in Detroit, in an impoverished community and with a mother who was loving but who lacked the education to help her boys to become successful.

Sitting in our studio that day, Ben Carson looked back with fondness at his years growing up in a ghetto community while his mother struggled, sometimes working three jobs as a domestic servant to put food on the table. But what Sonja lacked in education, she made up for in determination: She was determined that her sons would be successful in school.

You see, Sonja Carson couldn’t read. Her son Ben didn’t know that at the time, though. Sonja was often at work when her sons returned home from school in the afternoon; but sheCarson’s mother imposed a restriction on her sons: While their friends played basketball in the streets of Detroit, he and his brother would do homework and read. They were required to read two books per week, and then write book reports. He smiled as he told us that she’d put red checkmarks on the handwritten reports, sometimes circling a passage. She didn’t want him to realize that she couldn’t really understand what he’d written.

So it was that Sonja Carson, a single mother raising her boys in the inner city, engendered in young Benjamin the love of books, and in the bold adventures they promised. She paved the way to an academic career that took him from Detroit to a career as director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, to the stage at the Republican presidential debate.

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In 2009, Carson’s biographical Gifted Hands  was made into a TNT movie starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. The movie has been shown in schools, churches and on the Black Entertainment Television network (BET). It’s been released on DVD and streams on Netflix. The Daily Caller tells that story; but one part in particular caught my attention:

“There’s too much God in it,” Ben Carson remembers someone telling him.

Filming had already started on the TNT movie about his life, “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” when one of the major sponsors suggested toning down some parts about his Christian faith. There were concerns about alienating a general audience.

“I just said, ‘No problem, you can take it out,’” Carson recalled in a recent interview with The Daily Caller. “‘But take me out too, because it won’t be about me.’”

“And then they backed off.”

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Will I be voting for Ben Carson for President?

Well, if he is the candidate who stands next year against the likes of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, yes I will! But today, even as his poll numbers are rising, Carson stands among a field of pro-life conservatives who are worth considering. Over the next few months, one candidate will rise above the others and will emerge to represent the Republican Party next November. The candidates still have much to say, and they deserve our attention as they clarify their positions on issues of domestic and international import. I am not endorsing a single candidate at this time.

But having said that, I hasten to add that Benjamin Carson is one of the candidates whose strength of character qualifies him for consideration, in my view. The kerfuffle about Politico’s hit campaign and the pyramids in Egypt–well, those are merely media distractions. Carson has proven effective in medical science; he has less experience in politics, but that seems both a negative and a positive. He’s smart enough to learn, and to solicit advice from others when needed.

I continue to watch, and continue to pray that our nation will soon have the leader we need. I don’t yet know who that will be.

I’d appreciate your comments on the Carson candidacy and on others in the field; but respectful comments only, please. Name-calling and disrespectful comments will be deleted, and the originators will be blocked.


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