Updated: February 22, 2013 at 12:00 am
Barack Obama — an obscure state senator who had recently lost a primary race for Congress — gave an eloquent speech in 2004 that put him in the national spotlight. The speech alone, as challenger Hillary Clinton pointed out in 2008, paved the way for Obama to win the Democratic nomination to run for president. He was elected to the highest executive position in the land with exactly no executive experience in the public or private sector and a résumé so thin it frightened his detractors.
So don’t swiftly brush aside the latest movement to elect another man who came to prominence just last week as the result of a moving speech. Since Reagan, conservative Americans have been desperate for a strong, intellectual, charismatic and passionate leader who could articulate their values. Some believe this person has emerged.
World, meet Dr. Benjamin Carson — a world-renowned neurosurgeon with a kind smile, gentle demeanor and years of executive experience.
The 2016 presidential race is years away, but the Wall Street Journal published an article under the headline: “Ben Carson for President.”
Fox News anchor Sean Hannity had Carson on for an hour and asked if he would consider a run for president in 2016. He didn’t exactly decline.
“If the Lord grabbed me by the collar and made me do it, I would,” Carson said.
By political standards, under which politicians typically feign no interest until the last possible moment, Carson’s reply is tantamount to a “yes, by all means.” Carson also pulled a Gary Hart, urging the media to look for skeletons in his closet.
“Good luck,” he assured them. They probably won’t find scandal.
Carson emerged on the national scene in a nonpolitical manner back in 1987, when he became the first surgeon to successfully separate twins conjoined at the head. He led a 70-member surgical team that worked for 22 hours, freeing the twins to lead independent lives.
He’s a professor of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and at age 33 became the youngest division director in university’s history when he was appointed director of pediatric neurosurgery — an executive position he holds to this day. He plans to retire in June, at age 61.
Carson’s emergence as a potential president — the Internet is abuzz with “Carson for president” talk — came after he spoke last week at the National Prayer Breakfast only a few feet from President Obama.
For conservatives, this registered Independent could not have delivered a more refreshing and inspiring message. He grew up the impoverished son of an uneducated single black mother in Detroit. Yet we heard nothing divisive about rich people who don’t “pay their fair share,” which we hear incessantly from “The Great Divider.” We heard nothing about government saving of the poor, whom Dr. Carson helps with his own foundation.
Instead, we heard about a government that should encourage and facilitate the kind of personal responsibility that led an angry, underachieving kid from a poor family to rank among the most gifted physicians in the world. We heard about personal responsibility from a man who scrapped to earn his way into Yale, where he met the young MBA candidate who became his wife.
We heard about a tax structure based on biblical teachings — individuals tithe 10 percent of their incomes. Imagine replacing a tax code in which privileged politicians socially engineer society by penalizing and rewarding personal choices. We heard about a world in which all children begin life with savings accounts to pay for their own health care.
We’re not ready for a Gazette headline that screams “Dr. Carson for president.” Not even close. But we are intrigued by the man who stood next to Obama, telling him and the country a few things we all should hear.