At the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, with the president seated only feet away, Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon Ben Carson delivered a keynote address in which he criticized the Obama administration’s policies on key issues, including health care and taxes. Owing to the courage of his convictions and apparent common sense, there are now calls for Carson to run for president. For now, Dr. Carson says, “the more important thing that can be done with the platform I have been given is to try to convince the American populace that we are not one another’s enemies even if a (D) is by some of our names and an (R) by the names of others.” The author of the new book, One Nation: What We Can Do to Save America’s Future, Carson talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about his future plans and America’s hope.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: After an accomplished career as a brain surgeon, is it odd to be referred to as a “pundit”? Do the two have anything in common as best you can tell?BEN CARSON: Technically I guess anyone who has opinions and expresses them is a pundit, so I don’t find that particularly strange. Certainly neurosurgeons have strong opinions about many things just as pundits too.
LOPEZ: Do you worry that all the people encouraging you to run for president could go to your head and affect your discernment?
CARSON: I do recognize the danger of being deceived by the overwhelming enthusiasm of the many crowds to which I speak. This is why I am taking into consideration many things and looking at the landscape and evaluating the pros and cons before making any decisions.
LOPEZ: What might you say to anyone surprised (both favorably and not favorably) to find you writing about “The Art of Compromise,” which is the title of one of the chapters in your new book?
CARSON: No one should be surprised that I am writing about compromise. We live in a diverse society and it is impossible to make progress if you can’t talk to each other and compromise.
LOPEZ: You explain the positive reaction to your most recent prayer-breakfast speech as people responding to common sense. But do we really have such a thing anymore? Agreed-upon good sense? There seems be so many conflicting truth claims out there.
CARSON: There is still plenty of common sense left in America. The problem is that people are afraid to express it because they will frequently be attacked by those who have a different vision for America. Common sense should reside in both parties and in all segments of the population by definition. Those interested in dividing America appeal to selfishness and sensitivity to accomplish their goals. Those things frequently do not include common sense.
LOPEZ: You write that “Each of us can control only our own behavior, but if we all take action individually, our actions will collectively have a significant impact on the direction of the country.” Is that quantifiable, or is there a danger that it is merely a leap of faith, or wishful thinking?
CARSON: It is certainly a well-documented fact that when many individuals act responsibly, it leads to the development of a responsible society.