Dr. Carson urges people to speak up, work together

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 114 views 

How did a kid who grew up with an illiterate single mother in poverty in Detroit grow up to become a world renowned neurosurgeon?

Supporters of Union Christian Academy found out when Dr. Benjamin Carson, a retired professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, spoke Friday night (Aug. 9) as part of a fundraiser at the Arkansas Best Performing Arts Center at the Fort Smith Convention Center.

The speech, entitled "America the Beautiful," detailed Carson's long road from a kid not making the grades to to head of pediatric neurosurgery at one of the world's leading hospitals.

"My mother was 1 of 24 children. She got married at 13," he said in a matter of fact fashion.

He said he remembers when his parents divorced early in his childhood, which lead to some very tough and troubled years that included a move from his hometown of Detroit to a tenement shared with family in Boston.

During his brief time there, he would experience the shooting deaths of two cousins and would see other violent crime all around him. He said it was during that time that he saw a shooting victim, bleeding out in the street, for the first time.

"I remember thinking the likelihood of living to 25 was slim," he recalled. "But Mom was working two to three jobs. She didn't want to be on welfare."

When his mother, who only had a third grade education, did finally get the family back on their feet after her divorce, the family moved back to Detroit, but Carson was not doing well in school. He did not try to excel and he said it was widely considered that he was stupid when he was in the fifth grade. Carson himself even thought he was stupid.

"One person didn't think I was stupid. … My mother was so concerned," he told the crowd so silent you could hear a pin drop.

According to Carson, his mother took drastic measures for her two sons to succeed. She cut out the television and required both of her sons to read two books from the Detroit Public Library every week and submit a book report to her explaining what they had learned.

"She couldn't read, but we didn't know that," he said with a chuckle. "She would put a checkmark on there and underline some stuff."

Carson said it was not long until the benefit of reading started to show both in his personality and in his classwork.

"I began to enjoy reading the books because I knew stuff no one else knew," he said. "By 7th grade, people began coming to me for answers."

It was at this point that Carson, who went on to use his hands to heal the sick through surgery and medical science, made a startling claim about something he used to hate –poverty.

"Then poverty didn't bother me anymore because it was only temporary."

Carson said he thinks children living in poverty need the same wake up call he got, but he said politics make it hard.

"I do not believe it's too late," he said. "But people who advocate policies try to act like they're your friends, but they're their worst enemies. They want people fighting all the time. The real goal is to divide and conquer."

He said government programs are often times the problem. He specifically called out welfare and also called out the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) by name.

"Healthcare should never be a political issue."

Whether it is Obamacare or a poor public education system, he told the crowd of Union Christian supporters that it was time to take a stand against poverty, for education and for limited government influence in various aspects of the lives of everyday Americans.

"We need to wake up and let people know it's OK to speak up," he said, adding that if the nation keeps going down the road Carson said it is currently on, the United States could go the way of the Romans, Greeks or Napoleonic France.

"The same thing can happen in this country if we do nothing," he said.

The key, Carson said, to changing the fabric of America will be teamwork, something he knows well. As a neurosurgeon, he was the first doctor in the world to separate Siamese twins attached at the top of the head and have both survive. The operation involved more than 70 doctors and nurses in the operating room.

"This really is the key to success. In this nation, if we can learn to work together, can you imagine where we could be," he asked. "We'd be a nation for, of and by the people, not for, of and by the government."