Editor’s Note: Following intense interest in Dr. Benjamin Carson’s life story after his speech at yesterday’s National Prayer Breakfast, TheBlaze prepared the following biographical article.
The epic speech that Dr. Benjamin Carson gave at Thursday’s Nation Prayer Breakfast has gone viral. His address, which was delivered just feet away from President Barack Obama, railed against political correctness, with the doctor subsequently taking overtly-conservative stances on key social and political issues. The respectful tone and boldness with which he spoke has created intense intrigue.
So, TheBlaze has assembled some key information about Carson in an effort to tell you more about his truly captivating life.
Dr. Carson Is a Famous Pediatric Surgeon
Carson, 61, is the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital (he obtained this lead position at the age of 33). His career focus is on traumatic brain injury and brain and spinal cord tumors, among dire health issues.
According to his biography, he has written over 100 publications about neurosurgery and he has penned numerous books. On top of that, the renowned doctor has received more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees and President George W. Bush gave him the Presidential Medal of Honor (see other honors over at Bio.com). Read more about Carson’s professional background here.
He’s a Pioneer in the Separation of Conjoined Twins
Among his many talents, Carson has made bold attempts to separate conjoined twins. His first surgery in 1987 ended up being a success, as he was able to separate two 7-month-old twins from Germany. While Patrick and Benjamin Binder walked away with some brain damage from the procedure, it was an encouraging move in the right direction for an extremely-dangerous procedure. Carson’s surgery paved the way for other attempts to help ease the pain and horror craniopagus (joined at the head) twins experience.
Bio.com has more about other similar surgeries that the doctor conducted over the years:
In 1994, Carson and his team went to South Africa to separate the Makwaeba twins. The operation was unsuccessful, as both girls died from complications of the surgery. Carson was devastated, but vowed to press on, as he knew such procedures could be successful. In 1997, Carson and team went to Zambia in South Central Africa to separate infant boys Luka and Joseph Banda. This operation was especially difficult because the boys were joined at the tops of their heads, making this the first time a surgery of this type had been performed. After a 28-hour operation, both boys survived and neither suffered brain damage.
It was these operations that brought a plethora of media attention to Carson, paving the way for popularity and a public profile that continues to expand in scope.
Carson’s Early Life Wasn’t Easy
Judging from his career, one would never assume that the doctor’s early years were difficult. However, his story truly is a rags to riches tale, as his mother was instrumental in teaching him the values needed to succeed. He shared many of these struggles during Thursday’s address. He was raised by a single mom (named Sonya) who devoted herself to hard work in an effort to support her two children. Despite only having a third-grade education, she instilled educational values that forever resonated with her son.
Bio.com provides some snapshots into his early life:
There were occasions when [Sonya's] boys wouldn’t see her for days at a time, because she would go to work at 5:00 AM and come home around 11:00 PM, going from one job to the next. She was frugal with the family’s finances, cleaning and patching clothes from the Goodwill in order to dress the boys. The family would also go to local farmers and offer to pick corn or other vegetables in exchange for a portion of the yield. She would then can the produce for the kids’ meals. Her actions, and the way she managed the family, proved to be a tremendous influence on Ben and [his brother]. [...]
Determined to turn her sons’ [bad grades] around, Sonya limited their TV time to just a few select programs and refused to let them go outside to play until they’d finished their homework. She was criticized for this by her friends, who said her boys would grow up to hate her. But she was determined that her sons would have greater opportunities than she did. She required them to read two library books a week and give her written reports, even though with her poor education she could barely read them. She would take the papers and review them, scanning over the words and turning pages. Then she would place a checkmark at the top of the page showing her approval.
Considering his background, his push for hard work and responsibility was notable during yesterday’s prayer breakfast speech. While many utter such sentiments without experience to accompany them, Carson’s life shows that devotion to education really can pave the way to prosperity.
There Was a Movie Made About His Life
Carson’s life and work are so coveted, in fact, that a feature film was made about the doctor. “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story” was a made-for-television film that came out in 2009. A synopsis provides more information about the movie, which has relatively high ratings on IMDB:
From Amazon.com: Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (Actor in a Supporting Role, Jerry Maguire, 1996) stars in this true story about a renowned brain surgeon who overcame obstacles to change the course of medicine forever. Young Ben Carson didn’t have much of a chance. Growing up in a broken home amongst poverty and prejudice, his grades suffered and his temper flared. And yet, his mother never lost her faith in him. Insisting he follow the opportunities she never had, she helped to grow his imagination, intelligence and, most importantly, his belief in himself. That faith would be his gift – the thing that would drive him to follow his dream of becoming one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons.
Here’s the trailer:
He Runs a Non-Profit Aimed at Helping Young Scholars
Education is clearly important to Carson. And considering his own path to success, his focus upon the need for a more knowledgeable and prepared populace is understandable. With his wife, Candy, he founded the Carson Scholars Fund in 1994, an organization devoted to helping solve America’s education crisis.
Recognizing that the public education system is in crisis, the Carsons decided to help motivate young people to take interest in learning at an early age. Here’s a description of what the Carson Scholars Fund does:
Carson Scholarships are awarded to students in grades 4-11 who exemplify academic excellence and humanitarian qualities. Winners receive a $1,000 scholarship to be invested toward their college education, along with a recognition package, and an invitation to attend an awards banquet. Carson Scholars become role models and leaders at their schools.
You can find out more about the organization on its official web site.
Carson Is a Cancer Survivor
Carson helps children who are battling brain cancer, but he is also a prostate cancer survivor. In 2002, while in the midst of his bustling medical career, the doctor found out that he had an aggressive form of the disease. He found out this shocking news while in the middle of performing a surgery on a child.
In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Carson later described putting the news out of his mind so that he could successfully finish the procedure. However, rather than focusing exclusively on himself in that terrible moment, he selflessly thought about the many patients he would be unable to help if the disease took his life.
“I have the ability to put things out of my mind, so I just put it out of my mind and finished the operation,” he said. “But certainly, you know, that evening it did weigh heavily upon me as I began to realize that wow, I have cancer. The thing that bothered me was the fact that I would be leaving so many people behind.”
Inevitably, he overcame the disease and is now healthy.
He’s Also a Devout Christian
In case you didn’t know, Carson is a Christian. Jesus Christ was a fixture in his National Prayer Breakfast speech (as was the Bible). He’s a Seventh-Day Adventist who believes that the United States has been uniquely blessed by God. In addition to caring deeply about his patients’ physical health, he has expressed a deep devotion to addressing the nation’s spiritual and political issues — something he did head-on during yesterday’s speech.
The Christian Broadcasting Network once profiled Carson, noting that his views about America are rooted in its history and founding:
Dr. Carson believes as a nation, America has been favored by God because we have acknowledged Him. The forefathers of our nation were clearly guided by Sovereign leadership when they knelt and prayed for wisdom at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787. Together they stood up and assembled a seventeen page document known as the Constitution of the United States of America. Our nation was founded on principles revealed to us in the Bible by a righteous and just God. These teachings began in the home and continued at school. In early public schools reading from the Bible was not only common, it was expected.
In order for America to continue leading the world, Carson believes that it’s important to apply God’s standards to individuals’ lives. Rather than embracing partisan solutions, CBN notes that he wants the nation to “stop being political and start being logical” in addressing key issues.
Editor’s note: The Ben Carson speech post is one of most popular and viral in the two-year history of TheBlaze. On Friday’s BlazeCast (live from 12-1PM ET) we talked about how Blaze readers really helped drive momentum to this important story: