Today, Dr. Ben Carson retired from neurosurgery on the 36th anniversary of when his historic career began. Joining Johns Hopkins Hospital on July 1, 1977, Dr. Carson rose from adult neurosurgery resident to become the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery. Along the way he pioneered many innovative procedures and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
I spoke with the good doctor the morning after.
Armstrong Williams: What was your last day like?
Dr. Carson: Many people saying goodbye; securing and giving things to people. One last patient visit and, at the end of day, was a speaking engagement, which is now my new life.
AW: How will your retirement impact your family life now, given that you have been so busy for the past 36 years?
Dr. C: I hope it means that as Carson grandchildren begin to pop up, I can spend more time with them because they are so cute (laughs). But I also see the entire nation as part of my family and it is my open prayer that we can have a true family reunion.
AW: Most people hate giving public speeches, yet here you are embarking on a second career in a very publicly scrutinized field. What drew you to speaking engagements?
Dr. C: Having the ability to impact the thought processes of millions of Americans and particularly help them understand the role that they play in the governance of a country that was designed to be for, of, and by the people.
AW: What did you enjoy most about your career in medicine?
Dr. C: The opportunity to intervene in frequently desperate situations and, through the grace of God, to enhance people’s lives. Also, to be a role model that encourages people, not only in America but throughout the world, who work hard in the development of their God given talents and to aim high in terms of their lifetime ambitions.
AW: Are you going to miss practicing medicine?
Dr. C: I will still be involved in medicine, giving talks and lecturers. But I will particularly miss medicine the way it used to be-- in the days when you had much more autonomy and had the ability to treat anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. You could concentrate simply on rectifying the situation. I definitely will not miss all the bureaucracy and regulations that has entered medicine now.
AW: Do you think, given the recent rulings of the US Supreme Court regarding Affirmative Action and Voting Rights, that you would have been the success you are today, if Affirmative Action had not been the law of the land?
Dr. C: I always say that people who are highly successful generally owe that success to their mindset. Conversely, people generally not successful are also that way because of a mindset.
You can take a highly successful individual- take everything from them, put them in a terrible environment, and, in a matter of a year or two, they will be successful again and will have extracted themselves from that environment. Someone who has the opposite mind set can be given everything and will progressively lose it.
This is not to say that affirmative action and similar programs were not necessary. The reason they were important is because many in the majority society had grave doubts about the intellectual capabilities of minorities. Today, you would need to be a moron not to recognize that given the opportunities, minorities can achieve at the same level of everyone else. Therefore, if those kinds of prejudices still exist, it is because of willful ignorance and maliciousness. People who are malicious should be dealt with by free market forces, which can be very substantial and can quickly ruin them.
AW: How would you like to see the rest of your life play out?
Dr. C: I hope to play a major role in helping the American people recognize that they are not enemies of each other simply because they may have a few philosophical disagreements or exist in different socioeconomic climates.
I want people to understand that there is strength in unity and weakness in division. We must help open the eyes of the nation to the fact that those who are divisive but pretending they are your friends are the true enemies of prosperity in America. Whether that entails a political career or not is in the hands of God, but much can be done outside the political arena.
AW: Thank you for your service to the world Dr. Carson. We wish you well in all of your endeavors.
Dr. C: Thank you Armstrong.