Written by Josh Barker
On Monday, June 2, 2014, Dr. Ben Carson is coming to Lifeway in Macon at Eisenhower Crossing. He will be there at 12:00 pm, but staff members say to get there early. “Get there at 11:00 am at the latest.” They said, “Someone even asked us if it was o.k. to camp out.. NBC also requested an interview.”
Ben Carson was born in Detroit, Michigan. He was born into poverty. He moved to Boston for a few years then came back to Detroit. After returning he soon learned that he had gotten a “good foundation from the Detroit public schools,” but after attending a school at a Boston church for the following years, “it just wasn’t good enough.” He “felt lost in every subject. Instead of being one of the better students in my class,” writes Dr. Carson in his book, Take the Risk, “…I found myself at the bottom with no real competition for the ‘honor.'” He was the “class dummy”. His mother prayed about what she should do. After much prayer and thought, she said that her children, Ben and his brother Curtis, could only watch 3 shows a week, and they would have to write a book report on two books of their choice.
He describes what happened next in Take the Risk. “…I began checking out books on plants. Then I went on to rocks. After all, we lived in a dilapidated section of the city near a lot of railroad tracks. What is there along railroad tracks? Rocks. So I would collect boxes of rocks, take them home and compare them to the pictures in my geology books. Before long I could name virtually every rock, tell how it was formed, and identify where it came from.
I was still in fifth grade, gradually improving in some of my subjects, but still considered the dummy in the class. No one at school knew about my new reading program.
Then one day our fifth-grade science teacher walked into the classroom and held up a big, black, shiny rock. ‘Can anyone tell me what this is?’ he asked.
I had never raised my hand in class. I had never volunteered an answer. So I waited for the smart kids to respond. None of them did. I waited for the slow kids to raise their hands. None of them did, so I figured this was my chance.
When I raised my hand, I think I shocked my teacher. Everyone in the room turned and looked at me. Classmates were poking each other and whispering, ‘Look, Carson’s got his hand up. This is gonna be good.’
The teacher finally overcame his surprise to say, ‘Benjamin?’
I said, ‘Mr. Jaeck… that’s obsidian.’
The entire classroom fell silent. My answer sounded good, but no one knew whether I was right or wrong. So they just waited.
Finally the teacher broke the silence and said ‘That’s right! This is obsidian.’
I went on to explain, ‘Obsidian is formed after a volcanic eruption. Lava flows down, and when it hits water, there is a super-cooling process. The elements coalesce, air is forced out, the surface glazes over, and…’ I suddenly realized my classmates were all staring at me, absolutely amazed at the words coming out of the mouth of the class ‘dummy.’… The reason I could answer a question no one else could answer was because I had been reading science books about animals, plants, and minerals. What if I read books about all my subjects? I thought. Then I’d know more than all these students who have laughed at me and called me ‘dummy.’… That’s just what I did. By the time I reached seventh grade, the same students who used to tease me about being the dumbest person in class were coming to me and asking, ‘Benny, how do you do this problem?’
I would say ‘Sit at my feet, youngster, while I instruct you.’ I was perhaps a little obnoxious. But after the teasing they gave me, it felt good to dish a little of it back on them.”
Dr. Carson has an amazing and inspiring story. Since he was poor, his family couldn’t afford the fancy and “fashionable” clothes of the day. He found an organization, which has changed his life. ROTC “Colonel Sharper was walking down the halls of the school.” writes Carson, “…He had become one of only three colonels in all the ROTC programs at all the high schools in Detroit. The authority he commanded and his many achievements did not impress me nearly as much as his colonel’s uniform. He had three-diamond cluster on each shoulder, row after row of medals, plus a host of ribbons and even some fancy ropes… If I could show up at school every day in a snazzy uniform like that, I would no longer have to endure the humiliation of wearing the outdated clothing my mother said was all she could afford.” He joined ROTC for what some might call the wrong reason. Sadly he found that when he enrolled, he enrolled a semester after most of the other kids in his grade did, who joined. He was a semester behind! “Achieving the rank of colonel in just five semesters was not impossible, it was a long shot at best… As it turned out, I enjoyed everything about ROTC —- military science and strategy, disassembling and assembling rifles, target practice, drill instruction, the whole nine yards. I did so well that by the end of my first semester, I was promoted, not to private first class or to corporal, but straight to staff sergeant. By early the next year, I had been promoted to sergeant first class, then master sergeant. That was when Sergeant Hunt, a real sergeant in the real Army, challenge me to take over the fifth-period ROTC class, an unruly band of brothers who were notoriously disruptive, uncooperative, and exasperating. Sergeant Hunt promised me that if I could shape up that bunch, he would promote me to second lieutenant at the beginning of my third semester in ROTC. If I could manage that, not only would I have caught with and passed most of the cadets who had started a semester ahead of me, but it would give me an opportunity to sit for the field-grade examination. Only those who achieved the rank of second lieutenant or above qualified for this exam, which, in turn determined what level of promotion they were eligible for next.” He did get the promotion. “I took the exam and posted the high-est score in the city, beating out not just other second lieutenants, but all of the first lieutenants, captains, majors, and lieutenant colonels — everyone. The ROTC board called me in for an interview, after which they promoted me to the rank of lieutenant colonel, an unprecedented jump from second lieutenant… My performance on the second field-grade exam earned me my coveted promotion to colonel, but I was given the title of city executive officer over all of the high school ROTC programs in the Detroit public school system.” He was eventually offered a full scholarship to West Point, however he chose to continue toward his dream of being a doctor.
He applied and was accepted to Yale University. From there he would meet his wife Candy, and eventually got into medical school. He finally got a job as a neurosurgeon at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD. He retired in 2013, yet he’s not resting quite yet. The “Run Ben Run” campaign has started as many people want Dr. Carson to run in the 2016 Presidential election. He has also written 6 books. I hope you will take the time to read one of them. Take the Risk, which is one I have read, is a wonderful book. It talks about risk and how to deal with it, decide what risks to take, and much more. He goes through his life showing risks he has taken and how they paid off as well as how he developed his Best-Worst Analysis.
Dr. Ben Carson went from poverty and last in the class to one of the greatest minds of the world. He was the first neurosurgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. As many other people across America shout, I too agree “Run, Ben, Run!”