SIKESTON, Missouri–Dr. Ben Carson, who garnered popularity and support from American conservatives when he criticized President Obama during a 2013 National Prayer Breakfast speech, spoke to a packed house in Southeast Missouri on February 22nd. Though he discussed a challenging childhood, an even more challenging career, a dishonest media, and a corrupt Washington, D.C., his rallying cry was for unity and courage in America.
Dr. Carson’s own courage was obvious during that prayer breakfast speech over a year ago, and it was on display once again at Sikeston Field House on Saturday evening. He began by warning the crowd that he was likely to offend some. “I am not politically correct. I don’t buy into the politically correct dogma,” he said. “The last time I checked, this is America,” he added, praising the First Amendment. Applause erupted for the neurosurgeon many are already hoping will run for President of the United States. In fact, the first question during the question and answer session was about that very topic. His answer: “I have no intention of running for public office. However, I leave everything in the hands of God. If He wants me to run, I will.”
Clearly, the doctor’s faith–both in God and in American exceptionalism–were evident as he spoke to the crowd about the foundation of the nation and the possibilities America yet possesses, despite obstacles yet to overcome.
And he knows about possibilities and obstacles. Raised mostly by a single mom in a Detroit ghetto filled with violence, murders, roaches, and rats, he began to contemplate his future when a sunbeam made its way through his window. He had never expected to live past 25, as that was life as he knew it; that’s all he saw. The difference for him was a mother who worked ungodly hours to overcome the odds–a mom who refused to go on welfare because, she said, everyone she saw who got on welfare never got off. So instead of being dependent on government, she was thrifty. She would offer to pick beans for people on their land: “I’ll pick three for you and one for us.” Noting that the government could learn a lot from his mother, Carson stated, “I suspect if my mother was the Secretary of the Treasury, we wouldn’t be in the shape that we’re in.”
Of all that’s ailing America, including the decline of education, Obamacare, politicians run amok, and government spending, the doctor offered various prescriptions. The Founders, he said, knew that the country relied on an informed populace. We must not be misled by “slick politicians and a dishonest media.” If we will “spend a half hour learning something new every single day … [we] become a formidable friend of truth and a formidable enemy of deception.”
Citing numerous examples of the country’s exceptionalism, he declared, “Don’t tell me America is not an exceptional nation!” Thus, he said, America must take her place and lead. If we don’t lead, he said, we will cease to be the pinnacle, and someone else will fill the void. To lead, we must recognize that our young people are “our most precious resource,” and we simply “can’t afford to waste those resources.”
Dr. Carson expressed a passion for the profession to which he gave himself. “To be able to take the most important thing a person has–their health–and give it back to them in an enhanced form” is priceless. He spoke boldly about the disaster that is Obamacare and the immorality of making something as important as health a political issue. Carson detailed his own healthcare plan, one aspect of which is an HSA–a Health Savings Account. An HSA would provide every American $2,000 every year, wouldn’t expire, and could be shifted within a family.
The problem we have when it comes to health care, education, gay marriage, or the other issues we face as a country is a lack of unity and courage, said Carson. People allow politics to get in the way of communication, which reflects Saul Alinsky’s first rule in Rules for Radicals. According to Carson, Alinsky said, “Make the masses of the populace think what they think is outdated and the way you think is the only way to think.” He added, “And [when] you involve the media, that’s how political corruption happens.” This formula shuts down communication because people are afraid of the backlash.
Instead of succumbing to this form of control, he said, we must be willing to do what’s best for all people. “Health care for the American people,” for example, “should not be politics. It should be taking care of the American people.” He implored the crowd not to “let the few turn us into enemies.” To avoid that, dialogue is essential. Alinsky knew the power of unifying and having meaningful dialogue, which is why he said never have a conversation with your enemy because in so doing you humanize him, “and your job is to demonize him.”
To move forward in this critical state in which we find ourselves, we must be willing to have the difficult conversations, to go to people who may not have voted in twenty years, encourage them to tune in to the issues, get them informed and registered to vote–so we can vote out those who put politics over people. “I am not a registered Democrat or Republican,” he revealed; he’s an independent. But if he had to register, though, it would be with the Logical Party. Simply stated, he advised, “Let’s do the things that make sense.”
Ultimately, Carson concluded, we must think about what those who came before us fought for, allowing that to give us courage today to do the right things–which usually are the hard things. Women went to work in factories vacated by fighting men. George Washington fought alongside his men. They did this not so we could have manufactured wars on women, age, and class. They did what they did so we could have “a free nation of, for, and by the people.” They demonstrated bravery, and we must do the same, he implored, for the sake of those who will come after us.
Sharing the story of the poet Francis Scott Key who was overjoyed upon realizing after much worry “that our flag was still there,” Carson said that at the base of that flag, bodies of Americans who took turns holding up the flag were strewn. There was a price paid. Key’s revered words exult, “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” However, Dr. Carson stated before taking his seat, “We must remember that we cannot be free if we are not brave.”