||This article contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (February 2015)|
Carson speaking in 2015
|Born||Benjamin Solomon Carson
September 18, 1951
Detroit, Michigan, United States
|Institutions||Johns Hopkins Hospital|
|Alma mater||Yale University
University of Michigan
|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 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. He is actively considering declaring his candidacy as a Republican for the 2016 presidential election.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Medical career
- 3 Writer
- 4 Political affiliation, activities, and views
- 4.1 Criticism of health insurance companies
- 4.2 Views on end-of-life care
- 4.3 National Prayer Breakfast speech on social and fiscal issues
- 4.4 Views on marriage, homosexuality, and evolution
- 4.5 Criticism of The Affordable Care Act
- 4.6 Views on Cannabis Legalization
- 4.7 2016 presidential draft effort
- 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. Both of his parents came 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.
In his book Gifted Hands Carson relates that in his youth, he had a violent temper. Once, while in the ninth grade, he nearly stabbed a friend during a fight over a radio station, instead breaking the knife blade. After this incident, he began reading the Book of Proverbs, applying verses on anger and thereafter "never had another problem with temper".
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 the hospital's history as director of pediatric neurosurgery. He was also a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center.
Carson believes his hand–eye coordination and three-dimensional reasoning made him a gifted surgeon. After medical school, he became a neurosurgery resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He began his career as a neurosurgeon, but also developed an interest in pediatrics.
In 1987 Carson successfully separated conjoined twins, the Binder twins, who had been joined at the back of the head (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 John M. Freeman, and performed it many times.
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. In 2014, an American poll conducted by Gallup ranked Carson 6th on a list of the most admired men in the world.
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, America the Beautiful, and One Nation. The first book is an autobiography, and two are about his personal philosophies of success (hard work, faith). One Nation in particular was a massive success, remaining at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list for 20 straight weeks, with 5 weeks as #1, outselling Hillary Clinton's Hard Choices.
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. However, he joined the Republican Party on November 4, 2014, the day the 2014 midterms took place, as "truly a pragmatic move" because he may run for president in 2016. In his book America the Beautiful, he explained the decision to enter politics thusly: “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”.
Despite his largely conservative perspective, Carson holds some views that are at odds, such as suggesting that semi-automatic firearms be better regulated in large cities and high-crime areas. However, he does support the Second Amendment, arguing that "law-abiding citizens should have every right to own all legal weapons”.
Criticism of health insurance companies
In a 1996 interview, he said that he found the "concept of for profits for the insurance companies" absurd. He continued, "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".
Views on end-of-life care
In 1992 Carson wrote that aging and technological advancement will eventually lead to many people surviving their 100th birthdays. He questioned the merits of prolonging life, citing the fact that "up to half of the medical expenses incurred in the average American's life are incurred during the last six months of life". He discussed the "dignity of dying in comfort, at home, with an attendant if necessary" and stated, "Decisions on who should be treated and who should not be treated would clearly require some national guidelines".[better source needed]
Carson was the keynote speaker at the February 7, 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. In his speech, he commented on political correctness ("dangerous", because it goes against freedom of expression), education, health care, and taxation. Regarding education, he spoke favorably about graduation rates in 1831, when Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States, and when "anybody finishing the second grade was completely literate”. He espoused the idea of a tax-exempt health savings account created at birth, along with a birth certificate and electronic medical record, that can be bequeathed at death. He supports a flat tax, which he calls the "proportional tax" in reference to the biblical tithe.
The speech was magnified because Carson’s views were generally interpreted to be politically conservative, and President Barack Obama was sitting ten feet away. Conservative commentators from Rush Limbaugh to Sean Hannity and Neil Cavuto of Fox News praised the speech as an example of speaking “truth to power”. The Wall Street Journal titled one of its op-eds “Ben Carson for President”. Columnist Star Parker wrote that he "owes no apology for honest talk”. Fox contributor Cal Thomas and commentator Bob Beckel, however, found his comments inappropriate.
In an interview with Neil Cavuto, Carson defended himself, “Somebody has to be courageous enough to stand up to the bullies”. On February 8, he appeared on Hannity, and said that he would run for president “If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it”.
After the speech, Carson said: “I don't think it was particularly political...You know, I'm a physician”. 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”.
His sudden popularity among conservatives led to being invited as a featured speaker at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He tied for seventh place in the Washington Times/CPAC 2013 Straw Poll with 4% of the 3,000 ballots cast. In the 2014 CPAC straw poll, he came in third place with 9% of the vote, behind senators Ted Cruz of Texas (with 11%) and Rand Paul of Kentucky (31%).
Carson has also had a strong showing in the polls at the 2013 and 2014 Values Voter Summits; in 2013, he tied with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum for second place with 13%, behind Ted Cruz's 42%. In 2014, he took 20% of the Values Voter Summit vote to Cruz's 25% and came in first place for the vice presidential poll.
Views on marriage, homosexuality, 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 petitioned that he be replaced as the university’s commencement speaker.
Carson withdrew as Hopkins’s commencement speaker and apologized, saying that “the examples were not the best choice of words”, adding that the Bible “says we have an obligation to love our fellow man as ourselves, and I love everybody the same—all homosexuals”. And he said on CNN that he loved all people, whether gay or straight. Carson added, “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.”
In October 2014, Carson was added to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)'s extremist watch list because of his association with groups considered by SPLC to be extremist in nature, claims of a link between gay people and pedophiles, and comparison of health care and liberal government to slavery and totalitarianism. In February 2015, the SPLC removed his name and apologized to Dr. Carson.
In March 2015, in an interview with Chris Cuomo, Carson stated that homosexuality was "absolutely" a choice, claiming that "a lot of people go into prison straight, and when they come out, they're gay". Carson later apologized, stating, "I do not pretend to know how every individual came to their sexual orientation."
Carson’s views on evolution and creationism have also been controversial. 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 his views in advance of his commencement speech (there was no request to rescind the invitation). They cited a quote in an interview with the Adventist Review: “By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior”. Carson clarified that “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”. He claimed that the ACA 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, but the purported quote appears on a number of conservative websites. After an onslaught of criticism, Carson denied that he was “equating Obamacare with slavery” in an October 15 Washington Times column and denounced the “PC police” for attempting “to discredit and...silence” him.
During the National Prayer Breakfast, Carson said the following about 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?
Views on Cannabis Legalization
2016 presidential draft effort
Carson’s rise in the conservative movement and possible 2016 presidential run in have inspired a national movement using the catchphrase “Run, Ben, Run” to draft him for the Republican nomination. The organization, called the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, was founded by John Philip Sousa IV, a great grandson of John Philip Sousa. 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 February 2014 a Baltimore Sun poll ranked him first among potential Republican candidates, with 24% (Jeb Bush was in second place with 15%); in another during the same month, an online poll of 62,000 conservative activists, Carson came in third. In an interview with The Weekly Standard in May 2014, Carson said that he was “warming up to the idea” of a presidential run. In June 2014, Carson appeared in the first national poll for the 2016 presidential election through Rasmussen. In a hypothetical race 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. In October 2014 Bloomberg Politics reported that the Draft Carson movement out-fundraised the pro-Hillary Clinton PAC Ready for Hillary in the third quarter of 2014, shortly after an Iowa poll by the Des Moines Register showed Carson in second place among potential 2016 candidates, only behind Mitt Romney. He came in second place in a similar Fox News poll, behind former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee by one percent.
In early November 2014, following the Republicans' recapture of the Senate, Carson announced that a 40-minute documentary called A Breath of Fresh Air: A New Prescription for America would be airing to essentially "introduce himself". 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.
In January 2015, The Weekly Standard reported that the Draft Carson Committee had raised $13 million by the end of 2014, shortly after Carson performed well in a CNN/ORC poll of potential candidates in December 2014, coming in second in two different versions: He came in second with 10% behind Mitt Romney's 20%, but in the same poll with Romney removed from the list, Carson closed the gap with 11% to Jeb Bush's 14%. The Wall Street Journal mentioned that the Draft Carson Committee had chairmen in all of Iowa's 99 counties, and that Carson had recently come in first place in two separate Public Policy polls for the state of Pennsylvania.
Carson Scholars Fund
In 1994, Carson and his wife started the Carson Scholars Fund, which gave scholarships to students in grades 4–11 for “academic excellence and humanitarian qualities”. They founded it after reading that U.S. students ranked second to last in terms of math and science testing among 22 countries. They also noticed that schools awarded athletes with trophies whereas honor students only received "a pin or certificate".
Recipients of the Carson Scholars Fund get a $1,000 scholarship towards their college education. It has awarded 6,200 scholarships. 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.
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- (2014) One Vote: Make Your Voice Heard, Tyndale House Publishers. ISBN 978-1-4964-0632-3
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