The National Prayer Breakfast, held on 7 February this year, is normally not newsworthy, though that is not always the case with a Democrat president in attendance. Bill Clinton sought national sympathy, after his Lewinsky lie collapsed, by inviting 125 clergy to a prayer breakfast in September 1998. Fortunately, Barack Obama lacks some of Bill Clinton’s personal weaknesses. Perhaps that is why, instead of seeking something he might receive, he received something he did not seek at this year’s event.
The breakfast usually has two special guest speakers. One is the President of the United States; the other’s identity remains a secret until the event. Dr. Benjamin Carson was this year’s other special guest speaker, and his remarks generated so much interest that…does anyone recall what the president said? The media attention has made forgetting what Carson said a difficult task.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) introduced Carson as a man who:
1. Loves Jesus,
2. Has a compelling life story, and
3. Is a distinguished man of science and healing
and said that he hoped Carson could “help us sort some things out”.
Now, America likes “compelling life stories”; even cop-killer Christopher Dorner found social media fans with his “manifesto”. However, the country struggles with accomplished people, outside of sports and entertainment, speaking to “political” issues, and too many Americans believe no one can love Jesus and be scientific. Consequently, many consider Dr. Carson to be a leprechaun or a unicorn — a figment of someone’s imagination. So, when this man — raised by a single mother with a third grade education, who knew poverty and suffered from being a poor student, and who yet became Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, while maintaining faith in God — dragged his pot o’ gold and spiral horn to the lectern for 25 minutes, he surprised many.
Predictably, Carson’s eloquent challenge to Obama’s policies and ideology, while the president sat, noticeably displeased, several feet away drew the most attention. Yet, his remarks on deficits and debt, tax policy, and healthcare were less than a quarter of his speech, coming toward the end. The media overlooked his other, powerful points, more concerned with the “trials” of the president than they are with the trials of the republic.
Dr. Carson called political correctness a horrible and dangerous thing. His reason: instead of encouraging honest debate, it seeks to create unanimity of speech and thought, stifling honest conversation by holding people hostage to the fear of offending someone. Political correctness shuts down the true marketplace of ideas by keeping certain ideas from being widely heard. Consequently, the country does not consider the broadest range of ideas when looking to address problems, nor does it easily reverse policies that fail. Given where the nation stands today — politically, economically, socially — that is dangerous indeed.
The doctor did not mention was that those playing the “offense” card normally lean left, politically.
Carson spoke of his mother: married at 13, 1 of 24 children, and possessing a 3rd grade education. Yet Carter recalled, despite dire poverty, she “believed in me…would never allow herself to be a victim, no matter what happened…never made excuses and she never accepted an excuse from us”, forcing him to seek solutions instead. That, he said, allowed him to overcome poverty, a horrible temper, poor self-esteem, “all the things you think would preclude success”. A memorable thought expressed here was, “if you don’t accept excuses, pretty soon people stop giving ‘em and they start lookin’ for solutions.”
But we now have a body politic with no shortage of victims or excuses…and no solutions. Whether the “fault” lie with the 1%, or corporations, or racism, or being born poor, or the lack of some resource or another, all who “have not” are the victims of those who have. And the “haves” are, of course morally, ethically, and financially accountable for the “have not’s” predicament. Countering that idea, Carson offered the following:
…the person who has the most to do with you and what happens to you in life…is YOU! You make decisions…and I came to understand that I had control of my own destiny. And at that point, it didn’t hate poverty anymore, because I knew it was only temporary. I knew I could change that…”
This exposed the ideology gap between Ben Carson and Barack Obama. Dr. Carson believe people change their own lives when they decide to do so, a classic American thought. Barack Obama believes changes only comes when “everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”
Carson’s statement is proven by millions who, like himself, leveraged their talents and efforts along with those of neighbors and countrymen to escape poverty. The president’s comments are proven nowhere, and his egalitarian utopia has never existed, yet more people have succeeded in an “unfair” United States than anywhere else. Successful people don’t need a fair shot…just the courage to take the shot they have.
Carson defended the idea that accomplished people, not simply sports and entertainment celebrities, should take part in government and the debate of important issues, reminding the audience that 5 physicians signed the Declaration of Independence.
Carson also sounded the primary reason for the Founder’s support of an effective education system, stating, “…our system of government was designed for a well-informed and educated populace and when they become less-informed, they become vulnerable…”
And many Americans are vulnerable. The have become low-information people who know more about what happens in the lives of athletes and celebrities than about what they can do to maintain their liberty, or even why liberty is important. They are more sensitive to personalities than ideas, though the former always has a shorter shelf life and is of lesser consequence.
It was a brilliant speech of powerful ideas. Some say it was rude to the president. However, I can never recall a time when truth’s timing was welcome, or when those who opposed it did not complain when it appeared. The fortunate thing is, while many Americans are not as informed as they should be, the vast majority can understand the truth in Dr. Carson’s words.
May that same majority embrace what I am confident they can understand.