Inspired by Dr. Benjamin Carson in Sarasota, Fla.

Dr. Ben Carson Answers Questions from Booker Middle School Students in Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013
Dr. Ben Carson Answers Questions from Booker Middle School Students in Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013

“Things that I said at the Prayer Breakfast were the same things I’ve been saying for 20 years. It just had a viral impact, you might say,” Dr. Benjamin Carson, said during a Feb. 27, 2013, press conference in Sarasota, Fla.

Prior to Feb. 7, I knew the name “Ben Carson” but really didn’t know who he was. As a volunteer with the Ringling College Library Association’s Town Hall Lecture Series, I saw the speaker lineup last year and asked, “Who is Dr. Benjamin Carson?”

Dr. Ben Carson Before the Press Conference in Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013
Dr. Ben Carson Before the Press Conference in Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013

The response was always, “You know, the pediatric neurosurgeon from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center who separated twins joined at the head…you know, the movie, ‘Gifted Hands with Cuba Gooding Jr.”

February 7 my mom called to tell me Rush Limbaugh was discussing Dr. Carson’s National Prayer Breakfast speech, in which he commented on the economic and moral issues facing America while President Obama appeared to be dozing off, earlier in the day. I Googled his appearance and not surprisingly, the mainstream media had not reported the speech (it took most mainstream media outlets a couple of days to report it). I soon realized the famed neurosurgeon was propelled into the national spotlight and in about two weeks, he would be in Sarasota.

Who could have predicted last winter when he was booked how relevant he would be a year later?

The Day Begins
My Feb. 27 morning began with a flower stop for Dr. Carson’s dressing room at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall. Decisions, decisions, I opted for something with bright red, yellow and purple flowers. Weaving through traffic, I barely made it in time for the press conference in which I had a seat at the table.

The Press Conference
A couple of students from area high schools sat on either side of the neurosurgeon. Prior to the press conference, it was refreshing speaking with the young ladies because they were thrilled to meet Dr. Carson. One student aspires to go into medicine because of the doctor with plans on attending Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where Dr. Carson is the professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics.

Dr. Ben Carson Shares a Laugh with Ringling College of Art & Design Student Chris Baldwin, Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013
Dr. Ben Carson Shares a Laugh with Ringling College of Art & Design Student Chris Baldwin, Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013

Q&A with Dr. Ben Carson
What happens with retirement in June? As of February, he had 50 public engagements on the books including 10 international appearances and a number of television networks have reached out to ask him to make regular appearances.

How does he get through difficult situations?Hard work and faith in God” carried him through those times.

The Feb. 7 National Prayer Breakfast. It’s something he’s been saying for 20 years. He has been concerned the nation has gone from a “can do nation to a what can you do for me nation. People don’t necessarily want that but it seems to be an inexorable trend and what I like to do is awaken people that it doesn’t have to be that way,” he said and added, “but sometimes you have to be a little proactive and you just can’t go with the flow.”

Favorite book? “The Book of Proverbs in the Bible because there is so incredibly much wisdom in how you should lead your life day by day.”

Medicine and politics, do they mix?Some people think medical doctors should stay out of politics which is why I went out of my way to point out that five doctors signed the Declaration of Independence and have been involved with multiple things early on in the development of our nation. As in medicine you learn to make decisions based on facts as opposed to ideology. When you make decisions based on ideology very frequently they are faulty. Things that I talk about are things that are evidence based…you need to know what happened in the past so you don’t keep doing the same silly stuff again.”

Baltimore Orioles? I was able to ask the doctor if he gets to see the Orioles play, making the tie with the Orioles’ spring training home in Sarasota. He said he tries.

Following the press conference, Dr. Carson was presented with an intriguing portrait created by Ringling College Art & Design student illustrator and musician Chris Baldwin (@cbaldwin92).

Dr. Ben Carson in the Receiving Line at Booker Middle School, Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013
Dr. Ben Carson in the Receiving Line at Booker Middle School, Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013

Being a Geek Saves the Day
Prior to Dr. Carson taking the stage, I was the hero of the morning, providing my laptop to his wife Candy who needed to get online. Sometimes, being a geek pays off. I also learned Mrs. Carson is a very busy woman especially in Baltimore. Although she has several degrees, she chose to stay home and take care of the family. Since the children are grown, she become a very active philanthropist.
Dr. Ben Carson is in the House

During his morning lecture, Dr. Carson discussed his upbringing in poverty, what an angry child he was and how reading books saved him. He hated poverty but after discovered reading he tolerated it because he knew he had the power to change his situation. He stated, “how liberating a good education could be.”

Referring to his statements during the National Prayer Breakfast, he said, “people have to be willing to speak up and understand the issues and educate themselves.” (Can you say “amen” to that?)

He also advised on living a clean and honest life. “If you always tell the truth you don’t need to remember what you said three years ago.”

Regarding politics, Dr. Carson told the audience he loathes “the cesspool of special interest and other crap,” and added, “people who come along and say you’re a neurosurgeon you can’t talk about economics. I say it’s not brain surgery.”

Dr. Ben Carson Shares His Life Growing Up in Poverty with Booker Middle School Students, Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013
Dr. Ben Carson Shares His Life Growing Up in Poverty with Booker Middle School Students, Sarasota, Fla., Feb. 27, 2013

Inspiring Students
Following a Q&A session after lunch, Dr. Carson was whisked away to meet with students at Sarasota’s Booker Middle School who organized an amazing afternoon with a student musical performance from “Wicked” and introduction by Mrs. Frost, the school’s principal. Dr. Carson spoke about the challenges of growing up, on becoming a doctor and fielded questions from students. After the hour-long event, we whisked him away so he and his wife could catch some R&R prior to his evening lecture. The couple left town the next day at o’dark-thirty.

What an Honor
It was an honor spending the day with Dr. and Mrs. Carson and seeing the impact he has on others. Dr. Ben Carson is a kind, soft-spoken person with an important message and hearing what he has to say has encouraged me to really do my research and speak up when it comes to issues. He doesn’t “believe in political correctness,” and listening to what he had to say was refreshing, especially in a world full of spin.

Additional Resources
Visit the Carson Scholarship Fund website for additional information about Dr. Carson and learn to Think Big
RCLA Town Hall Lecture Series for Future Speakers

Books by Dr. Ben Carson
America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great

Think Big: Unleashing Your Potential for Excellence

Gifted Hands 20th Anniversary Edition: The Ben Carson Story

Gifted Hands, Kids Edition: The Ben Carson Story (ZonderKidz Biography)

Take the Risk: Learning to Identify, Choose, and Live with Acceptable Risk

The Big Picture

God’s Prescription for Healing

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Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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