Carson speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2014.
|Born||Benjamin Solomon Carson
September 18, 1951
Detroit, Michigan, United States
|Institutions||Johns Hopkins Hospital|
|Alma mater||Yale University (B.S.)
University of Michigan (M.D.)
|Known for||Separation of conjoined twins
Conservative political commentary
|Notable awards||Presidential Medal of Freedom (2008)|
|Spouse||Candy Carson (m. 1975)|
Benjamin Solomon "Ben" Carson Sr. (born September 18, 1951) is an American author and retired neurosurgeon. He is credited with being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. In 2008 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush. After delivering a widely publicized speech at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, he became a popular conservative figure in political media for his views on social and political issues, spurring talk of his becoming a Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential election.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Medical career
- 3 Writer
- 4 Political affiliation, activities and views
- 5 Carson Scholars Fund
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Carson was born in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Sonya (née Copeland) and Robert Solomon Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist Minister. His parents were both from rural Georgia. A DNA test on the television series African American Lives stated that he is of 80% African and 20% European ancestry. When he was 8 years old, his parents divorced and he and his 10-year-old brother, Curtis, were raised by their mother. He attended Southwestern High School in Southwest Detroit and graduated from Yale University, where he majored in psychology. He received his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School.
Carson was a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics, and he was the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. At age 33, he became the youngest major division director in Johns Hopkins history, as director of pediatric neurosurgery. He was also a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center.
According to Johns Hopkins Hospital literature, “Dr. Carson focuses on traumatic brain injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, achondroplasia, neurological and congenital disorders, craniosynostosis, epilepsy, and trigeminal neuralgia. He is also interested in maximizing the intellectual potential of every child.”
Carson believes his 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.”
In 1987 Carson successfully separated conjoined twins, the Binder twins, who had been joined at the back of the head, making them craniopagus twins. The 70-member surgical team, led by Carson, worked for 22 hours. At the end, the twins were separated, both survived. As Carson said in an interview:
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." 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.
Carson figured in the revival of the hemispherectomy, a drastic surgical procedure in which part or all of one hemisphere of the brain is removed to control severe pediatric epilepsy. He refined the procedure in the 1980s, encouraged by Dr. John M. Freeman, and performed it many times.
In March 2013, Carson announced he would retire as a surgeon, stating “I’d much rather quit when I'm at the top of my game, and there’s so many more things that can be done.” His retirement became official on July 1, with Carson saying he would leave the decision of whether to go into politics “in the hands of God, but much can be done outside the political arena.” 
Awards and honors
Carson is a member of the American Academy of Achievement, and the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans. In 2000 he received the Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards. In 2008 the White House awarded Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2010, he was elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine. Carson has been awarded 38 honorary doctorate degrees and dozens of national merit citations.
Carson has written six bestselling books published by Zondervan, an international Christian media and publishing company: Gifted Hands, Think Big, The Big Picture, Take the Risk, and America the Beautiful, and One Nation. The first book is an autobiography, and two are about his personal philosophies of success that incorporate hard work and a faith in God.
Carson’s book titled Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was released by Zondervan in 1992. A separate television movie with the same title premiered on TNT on February 7, 2009, with Cuba Gooding Jr. in the lead role and Kimberly Elise portraying his mother.
Political affiliation, activities and views
Carson had said he was not a member of any political party. “If I were part of one, it would be called the Logic party, and it would be dedicated to commonsense approaches we all should be able to see.” However, on the day of the 2014 midterms he joined the Republican Party as "truly a pragmatic move" because of the possibility of a presidential run in 2016. In his book America the Beautiful, Carson explained why he decided to get involved in politics: “I believe it is a very good idea for physicians, scientists, engineers, and others trained to make decisions based on facts and empirical data to get involved in the political arena and help guide our country.” He also said, “we [physicians] should be concerned not only about the health of individual patients, but also about the health of our entire society.” Although he has largely expressed conservative viewpoints, Carson has also expressed some views at odds with most conservatives, such as suggesting that semi-automatic firearms are not appropriate in large cities. However, he has also stated, “There’s a reason for the Second Amendment; people do have the right to have weapons.”
Criticism of health insurance companies
In a 1996 Megadiversities interview, he said: "The entire concept of for profits for the insurance companies makes absolutely no sense. 'I deny that you need care and I will make more money.' This is totally ridiculous. The first thing we need to do is get rid of for-profit insurance companies. We have a lack of policies and we need to make the government responsible for catastrophic health care." In 1992 Carson wrote "The most natural question is, who will pay for catastrophic health care? The answer: The government-run catastrophic health care fund. Such a fund would be supported by a mandatory contribution of 10 to 15 percent of the profits of each health insurance company, including managed care operations.
In 1999 Carson wrote:
A lot of people, including myself, have benefitted from affirmative action...and have, in fact, taken advantage of the opportunity it afforded them. And I think that is the best possible reason for advocating the continuation of some program that allows minorities to have opportunities and improved access to mainstream America.
I would love to hear people engage in a very different conversation—on how we might maintain the benefits of affirmative action but change it and even call it something else. We have to be smart, you see. What I would like to call it is compassionate action.
Views on end of life care
In 1992 Carson wrote: "As our general population continues to age and as our technical abilities continue to improve we will find ourselves in a position of being able to keep most people alive...well beyond their 100th birthday. The question is "Should we do it simply because we can? It is well known that up to half of the medical expenses incurred in the average American's life are incurred during the last six months of life....rather than putting them in an intensive care unit, poking and prodding them, operating and testing them ad nauseam, why not allow them the dignity of dying in comfort, at home, with an attendant if necessary?...Decisions on who should be treated and who should not be treated would clearly require some national guidelines."
Carson was the keynote speaker at the February 7, 2013, National Prayer Breakfast. During his speech, Carson commented on several social and fiscal issues including political correctness, education, the national debt, health care, and taxation. On political correctness, Carson remarked: “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 current graduation rates with those 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, to which money can be contributed, pretax from the time you are born, to the time you die. When you die, you can pass it on to your family members.” Carson spoke favorably of the flat tax system, which he prefers to call the Proportional Tax based on the biblical principle of the tithe.
The speech was magnified because Carson’s views were generally interpreted to be politically conservative, and President Barack Obama was sitting 10 feet away. Conservative commentators from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto of Fox News praised the speech as speaking “truth to power.” The Wall Street Journal had an op-ed titled “Ben Carson for President,” which stated that Carson “may not be politically correct, but he's closer to correct than we've heard in years.” Columnist Star Parker wrote in a column that “Ben Carson owes no apology for honest talk.” Fox News contributor Cal Thomas, however, opined that Carson’s remarks were inappropriate for the event and that he should apologize to President Obama. Fox News pundit Bob Beckel also found Carson’s remarks inappropriate for the event, calling them “extreme right-wing talking points.”
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 8, and was asked about a possible run for the White House. Carson responded: “If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it, I would.”
After the National Prayer Breakfast speech, Carson told ABC News: “I don't think it was particularly political.... You know, I'm a physician. I like to diagnose things. And, you know, I’ve diagnosed some pretty, pretty significant issues that I think a lot of people resonate with.” Regarding the policies of President Obama, he said: “There are a number of policies that I don’t believe lead to the growth of our nation and don't lead to the elevation of our nation. I don’t want to sit here and say all of his policies are bad. What I would like to see more often in this nation is an open and intelligent conversation, not people just casting aspersions at each other.”
Writing in National Review, Jonah Goldberg compared Carson to legendary African American leader Booker T. Washington. Meanwhile, in The Atlantic, David Graham compared Carson to Herman Cain without the "personal skeletons."
Following his sudden popularity among conservatives, Carson was a featured speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on March 16, 2013, and finished tied for seventh in the Washington Times/CPAC 2013 Straw Poll with 4 percent of the 3,000 ballots cast. In the 2014 CPAC straw poll, he performed even better, coming in third place with 9 percent, behind senators Ted Cruz of Texas (with 11%) and Rand Paul of Kentucky (with 31%). Carson has also had a strong showing in the polls at the most recent Values Voter Summits in 2013 and 2014. In that group's 2013 presidential straw poll, he tied with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum for second with 13%, behind Ted Cruz's 42%. In the following poll a year later, Carson closed the gap with Cruz by taking 20% to Cruz's 25%. In the same group's vice presidential poll that same year, Carson came in first with 22%, ahead of Cruz's 14%.
Views on marriage and evolution
Carson described his opposition to same-sex marriage on Hannity, saying: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don't get to change the definition.” Carson’s comments drew criticism for using "gays" in the same sentence as pedophiles and practitioners of bestiality. A group of Hopkins students circulated a petition asking that Carson be replaced as the university’s commencement speaker.
Carson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that his comments were “completely taken out of context and completely misunderstood,” and also asserted on CNN’s The Situation Room that he loves all people, whether gay or straight. Carson withdrew as Hopkins’s commencement speaker and apologized for the remarks, saying that “the examples were not the best choice of words, and I certainly apologize if I offended anyone,” adding that the Bible “says we have an obligation to love our fellow man as ourselves, and I love everybody the same—all homosexuals.” Carson also said, “I certainly believe gay people should have all the rights anyone else has. I was trying to say that as far as marriage was concerned, it has traditionally been between a man and a woman and no one should be able to change that.”
Carson’s views on evolution and creationism have also generated controversy. In a 2006 debate with Richard Dawkins, Francis Collins, and Daniel Dennett, Carson stated: “I don’t believe in evolution .... I simply don’t have enough faith to believe that something as complex as our ability to rationalize, think, and plan, and have a moral sense of what’s right and wrong, just appeared.” In 2012 nearly 500 professors, students, and alumni of Emory University wrote a letter expressing concern about Carson’s views in advance of his commencement speech, although no request was made to rescind Carson’s invitation. In particular, they cited his quote in an Adventist Review interview where he said, “By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior.” Carson responded by clarifying his views, saying, “People who believe in survival of the fittest might have more difficulty deriving where their ethics come from. A lot of evolutionists are very ethical people.”
Criticism of The Affordable Care Act
On October 11, 2013, Carson spoke at the conservative Values Voters Summit in Washington, D.C., where he called the Affordable Care Act (ACA) “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.” In his speech, Carson claimed that the entire push for the legislation originated with Vladimir Lenin and quoted Lenin as saying that “socialized medicine is the keystone to the establishment of a socialist state.” Lenin did not actually say this, although the purported quote appears on a number of conservative websites. After being criticized for his comments, Carson wrote a Washington Times column on October 15 denying that he was “equating Obamacare with slavery” and criticizing the “PC police” for attempting “to discredit and ... silence” him. Carson also acknowledged that there was controversy over whether Lenin used the “exact words” quoted and said that “the larger point is that [Lenin] and his followers certainly subscribed to the philosophy symbolized by these words.”
During the White House Prayer Breakfast, Carson commented on the ACA:
We’ve already started down the path to solving one of the other big problems, health care. We need to have good health care for everybody. It’s the most important thing that a person can have. Money means nothing, titles mean nothing when you don’t have your health, but we’ve got to figure out efficient ways to do it. We spend a lot of money on health care, twice as much per capita as anybody in else in the world, and yet not very efficient. What can we do?
Here’s my solution. When a person is born, give him a birth certificate, an electronic medical record and a health savings account [HSA]."
2016 presidential draft effort
Carson’s rise in the conservative movement and talks of a possible presidential run in 2016 have inspired a national movement to draft Carson for a presidential run for the Republican nomination, employing the catchphrase “Run, Ben, Run.” The official organization is called the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, founded by John Philip Sousa IV (a great grandson of John Philip Sousa). The movement has been following Carson’s activities and presidential ambitions, and citing his performance in major polls. Two of the earliest strong showings of Carson in the polls were in February 2014; the first one was a Baltimore Sun poll that had Carson rank first among potential 2016 Republican candidates, with 24% (the next-highest, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, had 15%). The second was an online poll of 62,000 conservative activists, where Carson came in third with 77% in a series of different match-ups (behind Rand Paul’s 80% and Ted Cruz’s 84%). It has also served as the primary fundraiser for a potential campaign, with Sousa reporting on April 12 that the movement had raised over $4 million, and that a potential campaign apparatus, from television ads to mailing lists, had already been set up. In an interview with The Weekly Standard in May 2014, Carson said that he was “warming up to the idea” of a presidential run, owing to people everywhere telling him that he should run, saying, “Because every place I go, it’s unbelievable ... and so I think I’m starting to hear something.” In mid and late June 2014, Carson appeared in his first national poll for the 2016 presidential election through Rasmussen. In a hypothetical match-up against Hillary Clinton, Carson tied with Rand Paul for the strongest showing out of any potential Republican nominee, trailing Clinton by only 7%. Carson also polled well in a Cygnal poll in Alabama, where he came in second behind Jeb Bush. At the end of June 2014, the Draft Committee reported that it had raised over $7 million from 91,000 donors.
On August 2, 2014, it was reported that Carson had officially approved the formation of his own Political Action Committee, named One Nation, and also appointed Texas businessman Terry Giles as chairman of a potential presidential campaign. Carson suggested that his final decision on whether or not to run would depend on the results of the 2014 midterms, and whether the Republicans would regain control of the U.S. Senate. This announcement came shortly after Sousa reported that the draft committee had raised yet another $1 million, resulting in $8 million raised overall. On August 25, Carson won a large majority of the vote in the Iowa Polk County Straw Poll, with 62%; the next-highest candidate, Ted Cruz, won only 7%. When interviewed by radio host Hugh Hewitt in late September 2014, Carson said "the likelihood is strong" that he would run for president, and that he would make a formal announcement "before May of next year." In October, about two weeks before the midterms, Bloomberg Politics reported that the Draft Carson movement out raised the pro-Hillary Clinton PAC Ready for Hillary in the third quarter of 2014, shortly after an Iowa poll by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg showed Carson in second place among potential 2016 candidates, only behind Mitt Romney. A later, similar poll by Fox News had Carson come in second behind former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee by only one percent.
In early November 2014, following the Republicans' recapture of the Senate, Carson announced that a 40-minute documentary, "A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America," would be airing in 22 different states to essentially "introduce himself" to the country. He also announced that he was officially switching his political affiliation from Independent to Republican for the first time ever, spurring even more speculation that he would run for the Republican nomination, and leading many to consider him the very first Republican candidate to essentially confirm his run.
Carson Scholars Fund
Carson and his wife started the Carson Scholars Fund in 1994. It gives scholarships to students in grades 4–11 for “academic excellence and humanitarian qualities.” The fund began after they read a research study saying that out of 22 countries, the United States was next to last at No. 21 regarding science and math. Also, they noticed that many school display cases contained trophies rewarding the success of their sports teams, “while honor students only received a pin or certificate.” Those who succeed are given “a $1,000 scholarship to be invested toward their college education, along with a recognition package, and an invitation to attend an awards banquet.” The fund reports “five thousand seven hundred scholarships and counting.” In recognition for his work with the Carson Scholars Fund and other charitable giving throughout his lifetime, Carson was awarded the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership in 2005.
Carson and his wife, Lacena “Candy” Rustin, met in 1971 as students at Yale University. They married in 1975 and have three sons: Ben Jr., Rhoeyce, and Murray. They live in West Friendship, Maryland and are members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
- (1990) Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, Review & Herald Pub., ISBN 0-8280-0669-5
- (1996) Think Big, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 0-310-21459-9
- (2000) The Big Picture, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 978-031225836
- (2008) Take The Risk, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 0-310-25973-8
- (2009) Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 0-310-21469-6 (20th anniversary edition)
- (2011) America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great, Zondervan Publishing. ISBN 978-0310330714
- (2014) One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future, Sentinel HC Publishing. ISBN 978-1595231123
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ben Carson.|
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- Dr. Benjamin Carson, from Johns Hopkins University website
- Carson's Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on YouTube from February 7, 2013
- Ben Carson interviewed on Conversations from Penn State
- In Depth interview with Carson, August 4, 2013
- NationBuilder: The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee