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Friday, July 26, 2013

Dr. Benjamin & Dr. Benjamin

Dr. Benjamin Carson is a kind and considerate man.  Although he is a product of a broken home, and someone who grew up in one of the worst areas of Detroit, he is not a man of rancor or anger.  Dr. Carson recently retired, yet he is revered today as perhaps the most brilliant surgeon in the world.  In 1987, Carson gained worldwide recognition for leading a team in successfully separating twins conjoined at the head.  The 22-hour surgery was the first of its kind to separate twins joined at the head without fatalities to either infant.  On ten more occasions, Carson led subsequent surgical teams that successfully separated such twins.

He is known as a doctor who never hurried through his meetings with his patients, but endeavored to bring them kindness, hope, and comfort.  He is a man of deep faith, who never tried to force his trust in Jesus on another person, but was always prepared to share his faith when asked.  In fact, he epitomizes 1 Peter 3:15:

“But dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord.  Always be ready to defend your confidence [in God] when anyone asks you to explain it.  However, make your defense with gentleness and respect.”

But, while Dr. Carson is soft spoken, that does not mean he is weak, timid, or shy.  His strength is an inner strength that comes from his faith in God.  I have no doubt that he is guided by Ephesians 6:10…

“Finally, receive your power from the Lord and from his mighty strength.”

It is this strength that gave him the courage to speak boldly when placed in difficult circumstances.  On April 20, 1999, a terrible massacre occurred at Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado.  Some very close friends of Dr. Carson and his wife, Candy, were very concerned by what occurred.  In fact, they were so determined to making sure something good came out of that tragedy that they dedicated their lives and a good part of their financial resources to keeping a similar attack from happening again. 

Dr. Carson’s friends established a program to encourage character building in schools, and in Columbine High School in particular.  The program was built around a process whereby students would identify thirteen of the most desirable character traits (in honor of the 13 victims) and associate them with a famous American who personified one of those characteristics.  Each year 13 students were to be selected who personified those traits.  Dr. Carson was asked to be the keynote speaker for the kickoff of the program.  Here is how Dr. Carson describes what happened next, in his book, America the Beautiful

“One of the officials indicated to me that they knew I was a man of faith, but that it would not be appropriate for me to talk about God or Jesus Christ.  Although I did not show it outwardly, I was stunned, because I thought Columbine High School would be the last place on earth where I would hear such an admonition…I usually don’t get nervous before a speech, but in this particular case I had received so many warnings about what not to say…that I was off my game.”

“…I took the podium in the gymnasium before the entire school body, parents, officials, and the media.  I spoke a bit about hardship and how it can be an advantage if one does not become a victim.  I also commented about resilience and how success is frequently preceded by failure, but at the conclusion I had to talk about God and the very Godly principles that resulted in the establishment of our great nation.  At the end, I received a standing ovation…and I knew that I had done the right thing by not hiding my faith or denying the principles that have led to well-functioning, harmonious communities throughout our nation.  Was I aware that I was violating the established protocols for the program?  Of course I was.  But I also knew that the entire purpose of the program was to promote character, and if I denied my faith I would be manifesting a total lack of character—for the sake of pleasing a few, I would have disappointed many.”

Just like the Sanhedrin ordering Peter and John to not speak about Jesus, Dr. Ben Carson could not do that.  Like Peter and John who declared “We cannot stop talking about what we've seen and heard,” Dr. Carson had to be true to his faith.  But, the act of being true to his faith took tremendous courage.  Perhaps that situation prepared Dr. Carson for speaking out when it took even more courage. 

On Thursday, February 7, 2013, Ben Carson gave the keynote address at the National Prayer Breakfast.  President Obama and his wife, Michelle, along with Vice President Biden, were seated nearby.  All of the national media were in attendance, waiting to hear what Dr. Carson would say.  After extending personal greetings to the President, Mrs. Obama, and to the distinguished guests present, he began to speak with grace, and a total lack of rancor.  This, in part, is what he said…

Political Correctness

“…we've reached the point where people are afraid to actually talk about what they want to say because somebody might be offended.  People are afraid to say Merry Christmas at Christmas time.  Doesn't matter whether the person you're talking to is Jewish or, you know, whether they're any religion.  That's a salutation, a greeting of goodwill.  We've got to get over this sensitivity.  …it keeps people from saying what they really believe.”

“…what we need to do in this PC world is forget about unanimity of speech and unanimity of thought, and we need to concentrate on being respectful to those people with whom we disagree.”

“And that's when I believe we begin to make progress, and one last thing about political correctness, which I think is a horrible thing, by the way.  I'm very, very compassionate, and I'm never out to offend anyone.  But PC is dangerous.  Because, you see, [in] this country one of the founding principles was freedom of thought and freedom of expression.  [PC] muffles people.  It puts a muzzle on them.  And, at the same time, keeps people from discussing important issues while the fabric of this society is being changed…we cannot fall for that trick.  What we need to do is start talking about things, talking about things that are important.”


“When I pick up my Bible, you know what I see? I see the fairest individual in the Universe,  God, and he's given us a system.  It's called tithe.  Now we don't necessarily have to [make] it 10% but it's [the] principle. He didn't say, if your crops fail, don't give me any tithes.  He didn't say, if you have a bumper crop, give me triple tithes.  So there must be something inherently fair about proportionality.  You make $10 Billion dollars you put in a Billion.  You make $10 you put in $1 - of course, you gotta get rid of the loopholes, but now some people say, that's not fair because it doesn't hurt the guy who made $10 Billion dollars as much as the guy who made $10.  Where does it say you have to hurt the guy?  He's just put a billion in the pot.  We don't need to hurt him.”

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 [it is] 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], to which money can be contributed, pre-tax from the time you are born, to the time you die.  When you die, you can pass it on to your family members so that when you're 85 years old and you've got 6 diseases, you're not trying to spend up everything.  You're happy to pass it on and nobody is talking about death panels.  That's number one. Also –“

“For the people who are indigent, who don't have any money, we can make contributions to their HSA each month because we already have this huge pot of money instead of sending it to bureaucracy - let's put it into HSAs.  Now they have some control over their own health care and what do you think they're going to do?  They're going to learn very quickly how to be responsible.  When Mr. Jones gets that diabetic foot ulcer, he's not going to the Emergency Room and blowing a big chunk of it.  He's going to go to the Clinic.  He learns that very quickly - gets the same treatment.  In the Emergency Room they send him out.  In the Clinic they say, now let's get your diabetes under control so that you're not back here in three weeks with another problem.  That's how we begin to solve these kinds of problems.  It's much more complex than that, and I don't have time to go into it all, but we can do all these things because we are smart people.”

Can you imagine the courage it took to speak truth to power at that moment in time?  Dr. Carson wasn’t angry, he wasn’t shouting, he was just gently speaking truth to men of power who had forgotten the principles that made this nation great.  That greatness comes from the people, not from the government.

In his book, in other writings, and in speeches, Dr. Carson often refers to the five medical doctors who signed the Declaration of Independence.  One of those doctors was perhaps the most unsung hero of American independence, Dr. Benjamin Rush.  And, in many ways, Benjamin Carson is a modern day Benjamin Rush, and not just because they share the same title and the same first name.

Both Dr. Rush and Dr. Carson have been hailed for their ground breaking medical skills and for their dedication and compassion for those patients they served.  Dr. Rush was well ahead of his time, not only treating the sick, but promoting wellness to avoid sickness.  In 1778 Dr. Rush published his “Directions for Preserving the Health of Soldiers”  This publication was so timely, so well-advised, and so advanced that was used more than 50 years after its publication, during the Civil War.

While actively practicing, Dr. Carson was commended for his exceptional bedside manner and for the time he spent with his patients, no matter how poor or how wealthy they were.  As one historian has written of Dr. Rush…

“He was extremely popular because he was impartial.  He was just as quick to attend to the calls of the outcast as he was to the calls of the famous, and his …kind deportment in the sick room and unwearied attention to the calls of the poor made him very popular.”

During the Philadelphia yellow fever epidemic of 1793, during which nearly ten percent of the city’s population of 40,000 died, Dr. Rush showed uncommon compassion and uncommon courage in serving those who were struck down by this dreaded disease.  While many doctors fled Philadelphia to save their own lives, Dr. Rush worked day and night to treat the ill.  At least two times he came down with yellow fever himself.  He not only survived, but continued to treat those in need while he was still ill.

Dr. Rush and Dr. Carson, in addition to having a very busy practice, were both active professors.  In 1769, at the tender age of 23, Dr. Rush became America’s first professor of chemistry at the College of Philadelphia.  Just a year later, in 1770, he published the first chemistry textbook in America, A Syllabus of a Course of Lectures on Chemistry.  Like Dr. Carson, Dr. Rush’s medical expertise was hailed not only nationwide, but worldwide.

Dr. Carson was a Professor of Neurosurgery, Oncology, Plastic Surgery and Pediatrics and the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.  Dr. Rush was a professor of Theory and Practice of Medicine at the University of the State of Pennsylvania, where he was later made head of the Institutes of Medicine and Clinical Practice.

Dr. Carson, like Dr. Rush, directed his attention to the education of America’s young people.  Dr. Carson and his wife established the Carson Scholars Fund to reach out to students in poor areas.  The purpose of the fund is to inspire and honor poor students for their scholastic achievement as much as those who excel in sports are honored.  But, more than that, the Carson Scholars Fund provides scholarships so that those who have an aptitude, and apply themselves, can get a college education.  Dr. Rush participated in the founding of five universities, and wrote and spoke repeatedly about the importance of education in maintaining a republican form of government.

And, perhaps most important of all, both Dr. Carson is and Dr. Rush was a champion of ending one of the greatest moral evils of their time.  Dr. Rush knew slavery was incompatible with the philosophy of the founders and was morally wrong.  But, he didn’t just think about it, he acted by founding the first abolitionist society in America.  In similar fashion, Dr. Carson has not only spoken out against the killing of the unborn, but actively raised funds for organizations seeking to end this evil.  Both doctors acted decisively and with courage.  This is how Dr. Carson relates a conversation he had with the head of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union)…

“I asked him if he would speak for and defend the rights of a 28 week old baby who was…on life support.  He replied that that was a no-brainer; of course the ACLU would defend such an individual…I then asked why it was difficult to defend a baby that was five weeks further along in development and was in the most protected environment possible, but easy to defend a less viable individual who was outside the womb.” 

Would you have had the courage to speak so boldly and with such clarity to the head of the ACLU?  I would not have had either the courage or the ability to do so.

Dr. Benjamin Rush was considered by his countrymen to be an equal of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.  He was an individual whose life and principles were taught to repeated generations of students up through the early 20th century; but sadly, today he is almost unknown to today’s students.

Dr. Rush was a healer, both physically and personally.  After Thomas Jefferson and John Adams became enemies for many years, Dr. Rush gently and kindly brought them back together as friends again.  He was that kind of a person.  In his Christian outlook he understood the frail, sinful nature of man and his need for forgiveness.  Dr. Rush wrote of an encounter he had with John Adams while both were members of the Continental Congress…

“…upon whispering to him and asking him if he thought we should succeed in our struggle with Great Britain, he answered to me, ‘Yes, if we fear God and repent of our sins.’”

The Christian faith of Dr. Rush was more important to him than anything in life.  He held it dear, and as a Founder of the first Bible society in America, he felt compelled to share his faith with others.  When describing himself, Dr. Rush said…

“I have alternatively been called an aristocrat and a democrat.  I am now neither.  I am a Christocrat…He alone who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.”

Similarly, Dr. Carson has a Christian world view that governs his thoughts, his words and his actions.  And, like Dr. Rush, Dr. Carson holds his faith as the most precious treasure in life.

Dr. Benjamin Rush had a great, positive impact on the founding of our nation.  He was a servant of the people.  Indeed, his motto was… “To spend and be spent, for the good of mankind…”  Dr. Rush strongly believed that public service was a duty that each man or woman should perform if called upon by his fellow citizens.  He did not see it as something to be grasped for personal gain, but rather a sacrifice that should be made, if necessary, to preserve liberty.  He saw public service as an extension of Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)  He said that an American citizen…

“…must love private life, but he must decline no station [office]…when called to it by…his fellow citizens.”

Dr. Benjamin Carson gained much attention when he spoke up courageously at the National Prayer Breakfast and in other forums.  The Wall Street Journal was so taken by the intelligence, fortitude, and character of Dr. Carson that the editors wrote an editorial titled Ben Carson for President.  At the 2013 CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) the Ben Carson address was so popular that talk began circulating of Dr. Carson running for President.

When asked about whether or not he would consider running for President in 2016, Dr. Carson took a very Benjamin Rush type of approach.  He said…

“Certainly if a year and a half went by and there was no one on the scene and people are still clamouring, I would have to take that into consideration. I would never turn my back on my fellow citizens.”

The Founders envisioned leaders in local communities volunteering their time, and sacrificing to serve in public office.  They never sought men who wanted to make a career out of public service, and, in fact, they would have decried such men.  It was George Washington who set the standard for public service when he declined to serve more than two terms as President.  He was hailed as a latter day Cincinnatus, a Roman dictator who voluntarily returned to his fields after being called to lead the Roman army to repulse an invasion.  Even King George III acknowledged that George Washington would be a great man if he relinquished his power and declined to stay in office.  But, that’s exactly what George Washington did, and that was what was expected of others who served in Congress and in the White House.  Sadly, that noble tradition has long passed away.  Not too long ago a Democratic member of Congress from New York was asked about public service and he simply dismissed the idea as being out of date.

Perhaps it is time for a rebirth of the idea of great leaders in the private sphere sacrificing and giving up some of their time to lead our nation, not as professional politicians, but as the citizen statesmen envisioned by the Founders. 

If the American people clamor for Ben Carson to run for President, I’m sure he will run, and what a great President he would make.  He is a man who would not only apply common sense to our nation’s problems, but would once again unite our nation.  We could do much worse, but it would be hard to find a man or woman who could do much better.

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