By Rich Lowry
The Hendricks County Flyer
Fri Mar 01, 2013, 11:39 PM EST
The National Prayer Breakfast is not supposed to serve as a forum for a clash of political visions, but that was what Ben Carson made it.
The Johns Hopkins Hospital neurosurgeon and motivational speaker lit up the event with a politically charged speech that quickly went viral. Mention "death panels" standing a few yards from the president, and that tends to happen.
Putting aside the propriety of Carson delving into policy at an event that is supposed to be apolitical, the speech demonstrated the power of the old-fashioned American up-from-the-bootstraps success story joined to a celebration of old-fashioned American virtues.
Carson's personal story sounds like an elaboration of the old saw about walking to and from school through the snow uphill both ways. He grew up in Detroit. One of 24 children, his mother married when she was 13. Her husband was a bigamist, and she ended up raising her children on her own with nothing.
Carson was a rotten student, teased by other children for being "dumb." At times, he lashed back at them, losing "all rational control," as he put it in his autobiography. A broken family. Poor impulse control. Anger. These are not ingredients for success. For too many young men, in fact, they are ingredients for jail or an early grave.
As Carson tells it, his mother, working as a domestic, noticed that people in the homes where she was employed didn't watch much TV. One day, she came home, turned off the TV and told Carson and his brother that they would read instead. She assigned them two written book reports a week, even though at the time she was only semiliterate herself.
She refused to take welfare, and she forbid her kids from feeling sorry for themselves. As Carson put it at the prayer breakfast: "She never accepted an excuse from us. And if we ever came up with an excuse, she always said, 'Do you have a brain?' And if the answer was yes, then she said, 'Then you could have thought your way out of it.'"
Carson's grades improved. He went on to graduate from Yale and then from the University of Michigan Medical School. He became a gifted and celebrated pediatric neurosurgeon, performing the first successful surgical separation of conjoined twins.
Against this personal backdrop, Carson has a very traditional American attitude toward success. He celebrates it unabashedly and believes in the gospel of self-reliance. Don't become dependent on anyone else. Don't consider yourself a victim. Don't begrudge others their success. Get an education, work hard, and thank God you were born in the greatest country in the world.
Carson's is a voice of hope and aspiration but also of rigor and of standards. He spent a long part of his speech decrying the decline of American education.
There is none of this that President Barack Obama or most any other liberal would disagree with. President Obama has spoken of his own single mother prodding him to study as a child. But Obama and company represent the party of government, and the premise of government programs tends to be that you can't help yourself.
A few days after being subjected to Carson, Obama delivered a State of the Union address that offered some program or other for practically every problem he identified. He took a pass on dealing with the debt and pushed for more taxes on the rich.
Warning of the disastrous effects of "moral decay" and "fiscal irresponsibility," Carson touched on a very different approach in his speech, advocating government frugality, a flat tax and health-care accounts controlled by individuals.
Carson insists - not persuasively, given the complexities involved - that these items are just common sense. What is common sense, or used to be, is the ethic of self-discipline and individual advancement that he exemplifies and extols so powerfully.
May his viral moment give him the chance to spread the message even more widely.
(c) 2013 by King Features Syndicate
December 7, 2013
When I woke up Saturday morning, I gave a customary online scan of Friday’s sports, mainly for a recap of the Pacers’ home game against Milwaukee.
November 18, 2013
Most people recall where they were upon hearing significant news in their life, whether it was positive or negative. I remember where I was when I heard now-former Butler basketball coach Brad Stevens was going to the Boston Celtics.
November 12, 2013
Having gone to a football school in the heart of basketball country, I was never around soccer in my youth, and thus haven’t been a soccer guy in adulthood.
November 5, 2013
I hate to say it, but I'm afraid we've seen this before.
October 29, 2013
There have been a lot of big games played in Indianapolis, none bigger than the Colts' unforgettable win over New England in the AFC championship seven years ago.
While next Monday's visit from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos won't eclipse that monumental event, there is no doubt that the city has never and will never experience another night like No. 18's return.
October 17, 2013
There is no denying that Twitter has provided a once-impossible glimpse into the minds of sports figures. It has also infinitely increased the ability of those figures to make absolute fools of themselves.
September 18, 2013
July 20, 2013
An NPR broadcast examines the question of how communities can better prepare for tornadoes like the one that struck Moore, Okla. on Monday. The broadcast features commentary from Michael Fitzgerald, who reported a five-part disaster series for the CNHI News Service.
May 22, 2013
Part I: Are We Prepared? | Part II: Disaster Dollars Part III: Lessons Learned | Part IV: Warning Signs Part V: The Big One
A month after a Pennsylvania man was found stabbed to death in an alley, authorities have charged a recently married young couple in his death and they're looking into other possible murders tied to adult companionship ads placed by the couple.
December 7, 2013
© 2013 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. ·
CNHI Classified Advertising Network ·
CNHI News Service
Associated Press content © 2013. All rights reserved. AP content may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Our site is powered by Zope. Some parts of our site may require
you to download the Flash Player Plugin.
Terms and Conditions
Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN
8109 Kingston St., Suite 500