Surgeon stresses reading, religion: Ben Carson speaks at OU

By Rory McCarty


Senior Reporter

Respected neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson said he believes that America has a problem with valuing entertainment over education.

Carson discussed how his mother helped turn his life around and about separating twins conjoined at the head, at the lecture in Oakland University’s banquet hall Thursday, Feb. 5.

Carson has written four books and in 2008 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his work as a surgeon. He is also a survivor of prostate cancer.

Ben Carson autographs a book he authored for a student at a session after the lecture.

Photo by AMBER DIETZ/The Oakland Post

Growing up in Detroit, Carson was one of the worst students in his class and was called “dummy” by his classmates.

“Mom didn’t know what to do, so she prayed,” Carson said. “Her idea was to read two books a week from the Detroit Public Library and submit written book reports [to her], even though she couldn’t read them.”

The first book he read was “Chip the Dam Builder.” He said he read begrudgingly at first, but soon forgot about playing outside and read instead.

“Between the pages of those books, I could go anywhere, do anything,” he said.

Within one year, Carson had gone from the bottom of his class to the top and earned the nickname “bookworm.”

Carson said that everyone should have someone in his or her life like his mother was to him growing up.

“I think you’ll find virtually anyone who has found success in life has had someone like that,” he told The Oakland Post. “I suspect [if I didn’t] I would probably be dead now.”

He also said that you could become someone important in someone’s life if they don’t have anyone like that already.

His religion, Carson said, was also an important factor in making him who he is. When he was 14, he tried to stab a classmate in a dispute, but struck the student’s belt buckle and broke his knife instead. Although neither of them was harmed, Carson said he knew with that kind of life, his “only options were jail, reform school or the grave.”

Carson said he locked himself in a bathroom after that and read the book of Proverbs for three hours. But he feels like today, America is trying too hard to take God out of everyday life.

“It’s in our pledges, it’s on our money, and yet we’re not supposed to talk about it,” he said. “In medicine, they call that schizophrenia.”

Carson said America is the “pinnacle nation in the world right now,” but that other such nations, like Egypt, Rome and Greece fell from their positions.

“They became enamored of the rich and famous, lost their moral compass and went right down the tubes,” he said. Carson said America has to begin emphasizing the importance of education to remain relevant in the world.

However, Carson said that there are ways that Hollywood can be used to help as well. He cited his own guest appearance in the movie “Stuck On You” as an example, where he agreed to appear only if the proceeds from a premiere of the film would go to charity.

In the film, despite being a pediatric neurosurgeon, Carson had a cameo where he separated conjoined twins played by Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear joined at the liver.

Cuba Gooding Jr. also portrayed Carson in a recent TV movie based on his autobiography, titled “Gifted Hands.”

Carson’s message about wealth and morality resonated with Denise Jones, senior psychology major.

“A lot of people are about having a lot of money and a big house, and it’s not about that,” she said.