Ben Carson – Liberty University Convocation

Ben Carson – Liberty University Convocation

October 19, 2019 27 By Stanley Isaacs


Thank you. Thank you very much. It is a real
pleasure to be here at Liberty. You know, this is my first time at Liberty, although
I’ve followed the progress over the many years and I am very, very proud of what’s going
on at this university. And I actually have some people that are very close to me who
are students here, Hannah and Ben Walker. Ben was actually named after me. And just
the things that have been going on here represent, I think, a lot to the country, and I want
to talk a little bit today about how important it is in your life to stand up for what you
believe in. You know, I’ve always only wanted to be a
doctor. That was the only thing that really interested me in life. When I was a small
child I used to listen to the mission stories in church and Sabbath school, they frequently
featured missionary doctors, people who traveled all over the world at great personal expense,
sacrifice, to bring not only physical, but mental and spiritual healing to people. It
seemed to me like the most noble thing someone could do, so when I was eight years old, I
decided that I was going to be a missionary doctor. And that was my dream until I was
13. At which time, having grown up in dire poverty, I decided I would rather be rich,
so at that point, missionary doctor was out, and psychiatrist was in. Now I didn’t know
any psychiatrists, but on TV they seemed like rich people. You know, they drove Jaguars.
They lived in big fancy mansions, big plush offices, and all they had to do is talk to
crazy people all day. It seemed like I was doing that anyways, so I said, “You know,
this is going to work out extremely well!” And I started reading Psychology Today, I
was the local shrink in high school, everybody brought me their problems. I would sit there
and stroke my chin, say, “Tell me about your momma.” And I majored in psychology in college,
did advanced psych in medical school, and I was gung-ho! I was all ready to be a psychiatrist,
and then I started meeting a bunch of psychiatrists. Need I say more? I’m just kidding, some of
my best friends are psychiatrists. But what I discovered pretty quickly is what
psychiatrists do in real life and what they do on television are two completely different
things. And they really are some of the more intellectual and very important parts of the
medical community but it really wasn’t what I wanted to do. I just said, “Lord, what is
it that you really want me to do?” and I started thinking about special gifts and talents.
You know, God gives everybody special gifts and talents. Everybody in here is better than
everybody else at something. It’s a matter of figuring out what your gifts and talents
are, and I realized that I had a lot of eye hand coordination. I had the ability to think
in three dimensions. I was a very careful person. I never knocked things over and said
“Oops,” which is a good characteristic of a brain surgeon by the way. I loved to dissect
things, and so I said, “You would be a terrific neurosurgeon.” And really that’s how I came
up with that idea. It turned out to be obviously the right choice for me but I think if you
spend some time trying to get in contact with those gifts that God gave you, and then think
of careers that take advantage of that, as opposed to just doing what your mom or you
dad did or what your friends are doing, it, I think, will make a tremendous difference
in terms of how things turn out. Now let me just take a brief moment for a
disclaimer. Everybody makes disclaimers these days, they says I sit on this board or that
board, I’m associated with this organization therefore you must take everything I say with
a grain of salt. Well, what I’ve discovered in recent years that it is very difficult
to speak to a large group of people nowadays without offending someone. Have you noticed
that? When I was a kid growing up, “Sticks and stone break my bones, but words will never
hurt me.” Do young people know that anymore? I don’t think so. Because now people walk
around with their feelings on their shoulders, waiting for somebody to say something. “Did
you hear that?” And then they can’t hear anything else you say. I was talking to a group one
time about the difference between a human brain and a dog’s brain, and a man got offended.
He said, “You can’t talk about dogs like that.” And then I was talking to a group about how
the fashion industry has gotten young ladies to think they are supposed to be so skinny,
they look like they escaped from a concentration camp. And you know, a Jewish man got offended.
“You know,” he said, “You can’t mention concentration camps!” He said, “That’s way too sensitive.
It would be as if I said something to you about slavery.” I said, “You cant talk about
slavery all you want; doesn’t bother me.” You know some people choose to get offended.
So this is my disclaimer. It is not my intention to offend anyone, and if anyone is offended,
too bad. Because I’ve got to tell you, I do not believe in political correctness and in
fact, I believe that it is a highly destructive force that is threatening to destroy our nation
and you know a lot of the people who founded this nation came here trying to escape from
people who told them what they could say and what they could think. And who are we, reintroducing
it through the back door. And really the emphasis should not be on unanimity
of speech, or unanimity of thought, the emphasis should be on learning how to be respectful
of people you disagree. And if we can ever learn that, I think we will be on our way
to having a much stronger nation. And this is something that we clearly are going to
have to convey to the people who supposedly run this nation who seem to have no concept
of it whatsoever. At any rate, there I was, you know I wanted
to be a doctor but I wasn’t a particularly good student. My parents got divorced early
on, and my mother only had a third grade education. She worked very hard two or three jobs at
a time as a domestic, cleaning other people’s houses because she didn’t want to be on welfare,
because she was very observant, and she noticed no one she ever saw go on welfare came off
of it. So she didn’t want to go on it in the first place. She had a very difficult life.
Discovered after getting married at age 13 and moving to Tennessee with her husband to
Detroit some years later she discovered he was a bigamist and I remember telling that
story at the University of Utah graduation nobody thought it was that strange. See, that
probably offended somebody. But you know, with all the things that happened
in her life, she never felt sorry for herself. And I think that was a good thing. The problem
was she never felt sorry for us either. There was never any excuse we could give that was
good enough. She would always say, “Do you have a brain?” and if the answer to that was,
“yes,” then she would say, “Well, it doesn’t really mater what John, or Mary, or Susan,
or Robert or anybody else did, you could’ve thought your way out of it.” And you know
when people don’t accept your excuses, pretty soon, you stop looking for excuses and you
start looking solutions, and I think it made all the difference in the world. At any rate, I was a terrible student, probably
the worst student you can ever imagine. In fact, my nickname was, “dummy.” That’s what
everybody called me. They enjoyed the fact that I was in the classroom, though. And the
reason is I was what is called the, “safety net.” You never had to worry about getting
the lowest mark on a test as long as I was there. I just kind of gave up on myself. I
really didn’t think that I was very smart. Fortunately, my mother would not give up.
She prayed and she asked God to give her wisdom to know what to do. How could she get her
young son to understand the importance of intellectual development? You know what? God
gave her the wisdom. At least in her opinion, my brother and I didn’t think it was all that
wise, because it was to turn off the TV set. Now what kind of wisdom is that? As far as
we were concerned, that was child abuse, but she said we could only watch two or three
TV programs during the week, and with all that spare time we had to read two books apiece
from the Detroit Public Library and submit to her written book reports, which she couldn’t
read, but we didn’t know that. She put little check marks and highlights and underlines
and stuff, and we thought she was reading them, but she wasn’t.
But you know, I hated it. Everybody else was outside having fun, but after a few weeks,
I actually began to enjoy reading those books because we were desperately poor, but it didn’t
cost anything to get a book out of the library. And between the covers of those books, I could
go anywhere, I could be anybody, I could do anything. I’d begin to imagine myself in laboratories
conducting experiments, looking through telescopes and discovering new galaxies, and microscopes,
microcosms. And I began to know things that nobody else knew. And I started reading about
animals and then plants and then rocks. And pretty soon I could identify virtually any
rock, tell you where it came from, how it was formed. Still in the fifth grade, still
a dummy. And one day the science teacher walked in and he held up a big black shiny rock and
he said, “Can anybody tell me what this is?” Well now, I never raised my hand. I never
answered any questions. So, I waited for one of the smart kids to raise their hand. And
nobody did. So, I waited for one of the dumb kids to raise their hand, and nobody did.
So, up went my hand. Everybody turned around. They couldn’t believe it. Carson’s got his
hand up! Oh, this is gonna be good. They were ready. And the teacher was so shocked, and
he said “Benjamin?” I said, “Mr. Jake, that’s obsidian.” And there was silence in the room.
Because it sounded good. Nobody knew whether it was right or wrong. They didn’t know whether
they should be laughing or whether they should be impressed, and finally Mr. Jake broke the
silence and said, “That’s right, that is obsidian!” and I said, “You know, obsidian is formed
after a volcanic eruption and the lava flows down and hits the water, there’s a super-cooling
process, elements coalesce, air forces out, the surface glazes over.” They were all staring
at me. They could not believe all of this geological information spewing forth from
the mouth of the dummy. But I was perhaps the most amazed person, because it dawned
on me at that moment that I was no dummy at all. I said the reason you knew those answers
is because you were reading the books. What if you read books about all your subjects?
Can you imagine the effect? And from that point on, no book was safe from my grasp.
I read everything I could get my hands on. If I had five minutes, I was reading a book.
Waiting for the bus, reading a book, on the bus, reading a book, in the bathroom, reading
a book. At the kitchen table, my mom would say, “Benjamin, put the book down and eat
your food.” It didn’t matter, I was always reading. And you know, within the space of
a year and a half, I went from the bottom of the class to the top of the class. Much
to the consternation of all those students that used to laugh and call me dummy, now
the same ones were coming to me in the 7th grade, and they were saying, “Benny, how do
you work this problem?” and I would say, “Sit at my feet, youngster, while I instruct you.”
I was, perhaps, a little obnoxious, but it sure felt good to say that to those turkeys. But you know, the fact of the matter is, I
had the same brain but just a very different outlook. And when you think about it, you
think about the brain that God has given you. We were made in His image, and He’s no dummy.
You know, your brain has billions and billions of neurons, hundreds of billions of interconnections.
It can process more than 2 million bits of information in one second. It doesn’t forget
anything you’ve ever seen, or anything you’ve ever heard, which is why it’s important to
make sure you don’t put the wrong things in there, because they will always impact upon
you, subconsciously and consciously. But to give you some idea of how complex your brain
is, how many of you remember your birthday? Let me just see your hand. I think it’s unanimous. Now, what did your brain have to do to respond
to that question, almost instantly? Well first of all, sound waves have to leave my lips,
travel to the ear, enter you external auditory meatus, travel down to the tympanic membrane,
set up a vibratory force, which traveled across the ossicles of the middle ear, to the oval and
round windows, setting up a vibratory force in the endolymph which mechanically distorted
at the microcilia, converting mechanical energy into electrical energy which traveled across
the cochlear nerve to the cochlear nucleus to the pontomedullary junction, from there
to the superior olivary nucleus, ascending bilaterally at the brainstem, through the lateral
meniscus to the inferior colliculus and the nuclei, across the lambic gradiation to the proceric
temporal lobes to begin the alterior processes to the frontal lobes coming out (unintelligible)….
So you
could raise your hand. Now, that, that’s
a simplified version. Now see how many rap singers
can do that. If your brain can do all that, and you barely
have to even think about it, what is your brain capable of if you actually put your
mind to something? It really is quite daunting when you stop to think about it. And you know,
our nation right now is in a bit of trouble intellectually, because people don’t think.
People are not knowledgeable. The founders of our nation said that our system of government
could only succeed with a well-educated populous. And they said once the populous becomes ignorant,
they become easily lead by slick politicians and our system of government will fail. It’s
a very interesting prediction that was going on there. And you know, I want you to think
about this. There was a survey done some years ago looking
at the ability of 8th grade equivalence in 22 nations to solve so-called complex math
and science problems. We were one of the 22 nations. We came in number 21 out of 22, and
we barely beat our 22. It was neck and neck. Couple that with the fact that we produce
only 70,000 a year in this country, 40% of whom are foreigners, China produces 400,000
engineers a year. 30% of people who enter high school in this country do not graduate
from high school, and this is the information age. This is the age of technology, so you
can see, we have a very significant problem. And it wasn’t always like that. You know,
in 1831, when Alexis de Tocqueville came to America to study our nation, because Europeans
were fascinated. How could a nation barely 50 years old already be competing with all
the powers of Europe on virtually every level? That is unheard of! He wanted to know what
was going on. In addition to studying the way the government
worked, he said, let me look at their educational system. He was flabbergasted. To recognize
that anybody finishing the second grade was completely literate. He could go out and find
a mountain man and the guy could read the newspaper and have a political discussion
with him, knew how the government worked. He’d never seen anything like that. You really
want to be impressed, and you’ll find this in our new book, “America the Beautiful,”
6th grade exit exam from the middle 1800’s. I doubt that most college graduates today
could pass that exam. You look at it when you read that chapter, see if you can pass
those questions. We need to double down on the academic standards and not allow ourselves
to be lulled into a sense of false security. It is extraordinarily important. But you know
the other thing that Alexis de Tocqueville saw that really impressed him? He said, “In
their public education system in America they teach values, they teach right and wrong.
They have Bibles in their classroom.” And he felt that was really the key to America’s
power, and he concluded his two volume set by saying, “America is great because America
is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” I think
he was very prophetic. And the reason I bring that up to you young
people, is because it is so important in the world in which we live, where secularism has
such a loud microphone that you stand up for what you believe in. You can’t just let them
have the microphone all the time and do things the way they want. You know, we’ve reached
the point in this nation where people hesitate to say, “Merry Christmas.” How did we allow
ourselves to get to that point? And if we continue down that pathway, the rights will
be encroached upon further and further, and soon our nation will not be recognized as
a free nation, and it’s going to require courage of people to stand up and be counted. You
know, people ask me all the time, “You’re a man of science. How can you be a man science
and a man of faith at the same time?” I don’t think the two are incompatible at all. You
know, people say “Yeah, but you actually believe in God and that he created things? You know,
you can’t believe that as a scientist.” I’ve had public debates with Don Johansen, the
guy who discovered the missing link, Richard Dawkins, you probably know who he is, “The
God Delusion,” he wrote. And he thinks anybody of faith can’t possibly be a person of science.
And as we were debating evolution, I concluded by saying, “OK, well let’s agree on one thing.
I came from God, and you came from a monkey.” I said, “No problem.” But the fact of the
matter is, now people who believe that, they have to believe it on faith, and I think it
actually requires more faith than it takes to believe in God. You know, when you stop
and you think about our solar system, how precise our solar system is. Now, you can
predict 70 years hence when a comet is coming because of the incredible order we see and
yet they want to say that there was a big bang and all of it just came perfectly into
order. The same people believe in the second law of thermodynamics, entropy, which says
things move towards a state of disorganization. So now, can you have both? Well, you have
to integrate into that probability theory. You see, if you have enough explosions over
a long enough period of time, eventually one of them will be the perfect explosion and
you’ll have a perfect universe. And I said, “So you’re telling me that if I blow a hurricane
through a junkyard enough times, eventually at the end of one of those hurricanes there
will be a 747 fully loaded and ready to fly?” “Well, we don’t understand everything.” And
I said, “I don’t think you understand anything, but the fact of the matter is, you’re perfectly
welcome to that opinion. But just remember, that is your religion. That is what you believe
by faith, just like I choose to believe in God, by faith.” So don’t allow anybody to
denigrate your faith just because they claim to be a scientist because I can guarantee
you there are a lot of arguments against what they believe. Well at any rate, you would’ve thought that
once I got on the track academically, life was going to be great for me. Wrong! You see
I had this terrible temper and I was one of those people who thought they had a lot of
rights. If you know anybody like that, you know somebody who gets angry a lot. Once a
fellow hit me with a pebble. It didn’t hurt, but I was incensed that he would dare hit
me, I picked up a large rock, hurled it at his face, broke his glasses, almost put his
eye out. Another time a guy was trying to close my
locker. I didn’t want it closed. I stuck him in the forehead with my fist. Unfortunately
the lock was still in my hand, put a 3-inch gash in his forehead. My mother was trying
to get me to wear something I didn’t want to wear, I picked up a hammer, went to hit
her in the head with it, fortunately my brother caught it from behind. Other than that, I
was a pretty good kid. But you can see how that temper could get you in a lot of trouble.
And another youngster angered me and, how many of you saw the movie, “Gifted Hands?”
Anybody see that movie? OK, several of you then. Well, in the scene that was depicted,
another teenager angered me, and I took a large camping knife, tried to stab him in
the abdomen with it and fortunately under his clothing he had on a large metal belt
buckle and the knife blade struck it with suck force that it broke. And he fled in terror
but I was more terrified than he was, I ran into the bathroom, locked myself in, and I
started contemplating my life. And I realized that if he had not had that belt buckle on,
he would’ve been killed or seriously injured, I would’ve been on my way to jail or reform
school. And I said, “There’s no way I’m going to realize my dream of becoming a doctor with
this kind of temper.” I said, “Lord, you’ve got to take it away from me. I can’t do it
myself.” And there was a Bible in the bathroom and I picked it up and opened it up to the
book of Proverbs and there were all these verses about anger. Like Proverbs 19:19 that
says there’s no point getting an angry man out of trouble because he’s just going to
get right back into it. But there were encouraging verses like Proverbs 16:32, “Mightier is the
man who can control his temper than the man who can conquer a city.” And it seems like
they were all written just for me. And I stayed in that bathroom for three hours
reading and contemplating and praying and I came to an understanding that to lash out
at somebody, to punch somebody in the nose, is not a sign of strength; it was a sign of
weakness. It meant that you could be controlled by the environment and by other people. And
I also understood that if you step out of the center of the circle so that everything
is not about you, then you’re not likely to be angry. You see, people who are angry all
the time are selfish people. He took my thing! He’s in my space! He’s in my lane! It’s always
about me and about my. And when you learn to shed that, it goes away. And when I came
out of that bathroom after 3 hours, that temper was gone. And I’ve never had another problem
with it since that day. And some people say, “Yeah, you just learn
how to cover it up.” But no, I’ve got to tell you something. When God fixes a problem, he
does not do a paint job, He fixes it from the inside. And it’s always good to go to
Him. When you have a problem, He knows how to fix it and to fix it the right way. And our nation has a problem. It has a big
problem right now with a lot of issues. However, the way to solve those problems is to equip
yourself. Equip yourself with knowledge and understanding about all kinds of things with
values, with allies, work together with other people. Because I think it can be changed.
And never give up. And don’t let people tell you that you can’t talk about God. You know,
we have a slogan in the Carson Scholar’s Fund, called, “Think big.” Each one of the letters
means something special. The “G” is for “God.” And a few years ago some lawyers came to us
and they said, “You can’t put your “Think Big” banners up in public schools because
the “G” stands for “God” and the first amendment says there can be no government sponsorship
of religious expression.” I reminded them that the first amendment also says that there
can be no government suppression of religious expression. So we had a really vigorous argument,
and I suggested that we would resolve it at the level of the Supreme Court, which seemed
like a bold and reckless statement, but it really wasn’t because I knew the next week
I was going to the Supreme Court to receive the Jefferson Award. So, I figure I would
ask while I was there and I did, and just as Sandra Day O’Connor said they were … , and
of course that was no violation of separation of church and state, and we just have to be
bold about those things and we have to be persistent. And I want to close with a story of persistence.
The flag. Every time I see our flag, I think about this. During the War of 1812 the British
came back, they were marching up the Eastern seaboard, destroying city after city. They
burnt down Washington, D.C. , they burnt down the White House, they were going to make us
a colony again. They rolled into the bay with their big armada. Chesapeake Bay, Fort McHenry.
They were going to reduce it to ashes. General Armistead had a large American flag put up.
They sent a message to General Armistead, “Take that flag down and we will stop the
bombardment. As long as you leave that flag up, we will continue to bombard you, you will
be dust.” There was an amateur American poet on that ship by the name of Francis Scott
Key, sent to do a mission by President Madison to help get some captives back. And he had
heard the plans, so they were not going to let him off the ship. And that evening as
the bombardment started, Key’s heart ached as he thought about this flegding… young
country that he loves so much going back to becoming a colony again. This fort, which
was the last … before the British overran us. And through the night as the bombs were
bursting in air and the rockets were glaring, he just thought about how sad that was. And
at the crack of dawn he looked through all of that debris, looking to see if there was
any chance that the fort was still there. And there was a clearing in the dust and he
saw the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, the torn and tattered stars and stripes were
still waving. And that was the beginning of the turning of the tide in the war in 1812
which we eventually won. And if you were to go onto the grounds of Fort McHenry that day
you would’ve seen at the base of that flag many American soldiers dead who had died holding
that flag up. They would not let that flag go down. That’s the kind of attitude, the
kind of persistence that has created and will continue to maintain one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Thank you and God Bless.