In the midst of year-end craziness - taking care of my organization's year-closing business and doing Christmas shopping -- I didn't anticipate that I'd find time to read a new book. But when I saw Dr. Ben Carson's, "Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk," I couldn't resist.
I spotted the slim volume while gift shopping in a bookstore. But it wasn't the catchy title that caused me to pick it up. It was the author. I already knew Ben Carson's remarkable story. I read his first book "Gifted Hands" 10 years ago. After I read it, I gave it to my kids and insisted that they read it.
Carson is director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions and a professor of neurosurgery, plastic surgery, oncology, and pediatrics. He also sits on the boards of several major corporations and is a noted philanthropist.
He is also one of a handful of black pediatric neurosurgeons in the world. He grew up penniless in the slums of Detroit and Boston, raised by a single mother who worked as a domestic, often working three jobs at a time.
As a young kid, as Carson tells the story, he was a failing student and earned the name "Dummy" from his classmates.
His mother saw what was happening and out of fear that her two sons would lead the way into yet another generation in poverty, she took action. She told her boys that she would pray for the wisdom for what to do.
Her prayers were answered, but the boys weren't particularly thrilled to hear their Mom's new-found guidance. They were told that the extent of their television watching each week would be three shows of their choice. And, that each would read two books a week and give her a written report on both.
This was the beginning of a change that set young Ben's life on a new course.
One thing Ben and his brother didn't know. When his Mom looked over and checked off their weekly book reports, she wasn't actually reading them. Ben's Mom's education stopped at the third grade and she couldn't read.
Carson went on to become one of the world's most sought-after pediatric neurosurgeons, known for his boldness and creativity.
He has written a number of books in which he shares both his story and philosophy. He is a man of deep faith who believes in both individual responsibility and individual uniqueness. As he sees it, these elements are crucial for individual success, but also to maintain the greatness of our country.
I believe that Carson's message is particularly powerful and relevant to the challenges facing Americans today, poor and rich, white and black.