No. 902



Back in 2006 I wrote a column titled, “We Can’t Pick Our Kinfolks,” in which I told the story of Dr. Ben Carson, the famous Johns Hopkins Medical Center neurosurgeon who led a team of doctors to perform the first surgery to separate Siamese twins who were joined at the head where both lived. At the time I had never heard of Dr. Ben Carson, but a wonderful reader, the late Eva Easley of Bluefield, W.Va., told me about him and suggested I read his book, “Gifted Hands.” I did.
Now, please fast forward to Feb. 7, 2013, and the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., where he was a featured speaker. His remarks, with President Obama a scant five feet away, has the Washington establishment buzzing and millions more Americans now know about this truly gifted and caring American.
In next week’s column I want to elaborate on a basic concept he presented but I felt it would be helpful if you had some background information that would place what he had to say into context. Please read his story, which follows, and then join me next week, as I will talk about the simple concept of “Skin In The Game.” His presentation will make all the difference in the world in how we view things. Now, on to his story:
“Ben Carson grew up in a ghetto in Detroit, Mich. When he was 8 years of age, his mother learned that his father had ‘another’ family. After the divorce, things were really hard for Ben, his older brother and his mother, who had only a third-grade education but worked two or three jobs to provide for them. The school Ben attended in his early years was made up of mostly white students, and Ben was black. Because he was not doing well, some of the other students called him ‘dummy.’ Ben’s mother was a strong believer in the value of education, and when she learned of this she laid the law down to him.
“She said, ‘from now on, you can watch only two or three television programs a week and you must read two books. While he grumbled for a time, he followed his mother’s instructions. One of the things that motivated him was a television program called ‘College Quiz Bowl.’ Ben wanted to be on that program, but he knew he would have to have a well-rounded education to compete successfully. Soon he began to listen to classical music, go to art galleries, and attend plays and other cultural events. He also read books on everything he could find that would broaden his range of knowledge.
“While he never made it to the College Quiz Bowl, here was the payoff. In high school, many of the same students who used to call him ‘dummy’ were now coming to Ben asking him to help them with their studies. He also became involved in the ROTC program at his school and made it all the way to the rank of colonel before he graduated. As a result, Ben was offered a full scholarship to West Point, but turned it down because he had decided that he wanted to become a doctor. He was offered a full scholarship to Yale University, where he graduated and would then go on to the Michigan School of Medicine.” What a great foundation for success.
Today, Dr. Ben Carson is soon to retire as head of the pediatric neurosurgery department of Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, Md. It was back in 1987 when he led a team of surgeons who performed successful surgery to separate Siamese twins who were joined at the head. Telling his story is always emotional for me. Next week I believe you will see why.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)