On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Benjamin Carson speak at the First Baptist Church of Orlando during a prayer breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and a biscuit. In a 30-minute motivational speech, he recalled his path to becoming a physician, personal challenges growing up and love for learning. He also touched upon African-American history, religion and the brain.
A little background : Carson is a world-renowned neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a professor at the School of Medicine. He was the first person to successfully separate craniopagus (Siamese) twins joined at the back of the head in 1987 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2008.
Carson's childhood dream was to become a physician, but he encountered challenges growing up in poverty and a single parent home. He struggled with poor grades, a horrible temper and low self-esteem. His mother had married when she was 13 years old and held only a third grade education. But one day, she insisted that he read two books a week from the Detroit Public Library and submit to her the written book reports.
"... which she couldn't read, but we didn't know that," Carson said. "She would put little check marks and highlights and underlines and all kinds of stuff. And we would think she was reading them."
For Carson, a new horizon was opened up to him through reading all those books : the potential of the human brain.
He details his life in his 1990 autobiography Gifted Hands, which was subsequently adapted for television with Cuba Gooding Jr. playing the lead role. Carson also has written two other bestselling books, The Big Picture and Think Big, both of which describe his practical principles for success - hard work and a faith in God.
Other memorable quotes from Carson that day :
"I can't help but think that if Dr. King were here today, he would be speaking up about things that are politically incorrect. I think he would be saying to a lot of our young men, 'You need to stop running around on the streets, and you need to develop your brain, because you are the one who is responsible for your future, not somebody else.'"
"Everybody hates something. Some people with spiders. Some people with centipedes. Rats. I hated poverty... I was allergic to it."
"Between the covers of those books, I can go anywhere. I can be anybody. I can do anything. I imagined myself all over the world doing all kinds of things. I began to know things that no one else knew."
"That's the wonderful thing about God. You don't need a PhD to talk to Him."