Dr. Benjamin S. Carson Sr. delivered a sold-out lecture at Roanoke College on Sept. 13 that was open to the community. Carson’s talk, which was part of the David L. Guy ‘ 75 Lecture Series, was co-hosted by the college’s Center for Economic Freedom and the Young America’s Foundation.
Carson is a pediatric neurosurgeon who most recently served as the 17th secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under former President Donald Trump. For nearly 30 years, he was director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, a position he assumed when he was just 33 years old, becoming the youngest major division director in the hospital’s history. In 1987, he successfully performed the first separation of craniopagus twins conjoined at the back of the head. He also performed the first fully successful separation of type 2 vertical craniopagus twins in 1997 in South Africa.
One Roanoke College student, Elisabeth Cullen, a junior from Medford, New Jersey, has a personal connection to Carson: As a child, she had a chiaris malformation, a condition where the brain tissue extends into the spinal canal. Carson, who was the family’s third opinion on whether to have surgery, recommended they wait – and they did. The symptoms resolved and Cullen did not have to undergo surgery. She saw him for several years and was there for his talk in Olin Theater.
Carson shared a story about his educational experiences as a young student, saying he wanted to be a doctor from a very young age – but he had terrible grades.
“The only person who really believed in me was my mother,” Carson said. At her insistence, he became a voracious reader of all types of books. One day, when a teacher held up a shiny black rock and asked if anyone could identify it, Carson knew and responded with all the correct details.
“It dawned on me at that moment: the reason you knew the answer is because you read your books. From that point on, I was always reading… Within the space of a year and a half, I went from the bottom of the class to the top of the class.” Carson ultimately graduated from Yale University and earned his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School.
Carson also discussed the founding of the United States, saying that a communist agenda has put the U.S. in danger of losing the republic. To combat those influences, Carson founded the American Cornerstone Institute, a new think tank that works to promote conservative values through the protection of faith, liberty, community and life — what the institute considers the four cornerstones of our country.
“We the American people are not each other’s enemies,” Carson said. “But there are people who want us to think that, and they’re driving wedges between us on the basis of race, age, income, religion, political affiliation, gender, you name it – driving wedges and it’s destroying our society.”
Carson briefly discussed his time in Washington, detailing the challenges he faced in getting his assistant secretary and deputy secretary approved by Congress.
“I think the thinking was if we don’t give him his people, he will quit,” Carson said. “They don’t know me. They think because I’m quiet and mild-mannered, I can be easily distracted.” He elaborated on how he eventually completed his staff and conducted an audit of HUD to restore financial accountability. He said HUD is now one of the best-run agencies in D.C.
Carson ended with stories of bravery from soldiers who fought for the United States in World War II on D-Day. He said the reason for their bravery wasn’t for themselves. “It was for you and me, and now it is our turn to do for those who are coming after us.”