Dr. Ben Carson: What Made America Great?
By Craig von Buseck
CBN.com Contributing Writer
CBN.com Craig von Buseck: You co-wrote your book, America the Beautiful, with your wife. What motivated the writing of this book?
Dr. Ben Carson: Well, I was just thinking about how fortunate I’ve been in my journey and life, and as I was seeing the people become more and more passive, and the government becoming more and more aggressive, I began to realize that what I grew up with was slipping away from us and might not be available for our grandchildren. I thought it was probably time to sound the alarm. I’m pleased that people are hearing it. So the hope is that a critical mass of people will read this and recognize that this is a country that was designed for, of, and by the people.
Carson: Not for, of, and by the government. But in order for it to work, people have to reassert themselves. They can’t be just like little dumb zombies listening to some commentator on television.
CVB: Well, it’s interesting, because I think that this is something that it resonating across the country with a lot of people. They’re seeing these red flags that have risen. What, for you, were some of those red flags?
Carson: Well, recognizing that our educational system is deteriorating significantly. You know, when Alexis de Tocqueville came here in 1831 to study America, because the Europeans were just fascinated with how a nation barely 50 years old could already be competing with them at virtually every level, and he looked at our school system and saw that anybody finishing the Second Grade was completely literate. He could go out and find a mountain man, and they could read a newspaper, and they could talk politics, and he’d never seen anything like that before.
If you think about it, you look at some of the letters that we have archived that came from people in the wild west, look at their vocabulary and their grammar; you’d think a college professor had written this stuff. We have just dumbed things down to that level. And in the book, I have an example of questions in a sixth grade exit exam from the 1830’s. I doubt most college graduates could even come close to passing it today.
Carson: So, interestingly enough, that was one of the things. The other thing I was quite alarmed about is the fact that the growth of the government is such that it continues to require more, and more, and more of the people’s money. And it’s gotten beyond a point now where people aren’t even alarmed when the government takes 30, 40, or 50 percent of what your make. It’s like, “Oh, well that’s what the government’s supposed to do.” Of course, that’s not even close to what the government is supposed to do.
And then just the level of dependency, America became a great nation, because we were a “can do” nation. Now we’re becoming a “what can you do for me” nation. So seeing all those things, plus the rapid rise of political correctness, which is stifling one of the basic tenets of our country – our freedom of speech – just alarmed me significantly.
CVB: So, as a doctor, what are some of the prescriptions that you are giving to the people of America to deal with this illness?
Carson: Well, I think one of the things is that people must re-engage, and that means picking up a book, reading history, learning about the fundamental principles that were involved in the establishment of this nation, and what are the things that we truly value. That’s the first thing you have to do.
The second thing is, you have to go out there and be involved in the process. When it comes to voting, for instance, don’t just go into the voting booth and say, “Let’s see, what name do I recognize here?” You need to actually know who those people are.
Carson: It’s sort of like if you were getting ready to buy a car, it’s very unlikely that you would just say, “Oh, that red car over there, that looks familiar. Let’s buy that.” No, you would do some research. You would find out what the mileage is and the maintenance records. And yet for something that’s considerably more important than that, all we do is look for the name that we recognize. So those are the kinds of things that I think are vitally important.
Also, we have to stop allowing the politicians and the media to dictate what kind of people we are. They are so mean to each other. They call each other names. They demonize anybody who doesn’t agree with them, and what this is doing is creating a very, very divisive society. A wise man once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
And, of course, we need to be encouraging good leadership, and what good leadership does is it creates a vision behind which everybody can place their efforts. It doesn’t pick one group and pit them against another group. That’s the exact opposite of what good leadership is.
CVB: Now, you had the wonderful fortune of having a mother who was very engaged in your life and in your education. In the book, what do you tell parents in this day and age with regard to being involved with their children’s lives and education?
Carson: Well, I say that the most important job you can possibly have is raising a child, and it needs to be treated that way. You have to show them, rather than just talk to them. In other words, you can’t just say, “I want you to go study,” while you prop yourself up in front of the TV all night. Kids have what I call a built-in hypocrisy antenna that comes up and blocks out what you’re saying when you’re being a hypocrite. So we just have to lead that life before them. Be the kind of person that we really want them to be.
CVB: Some of the questions that are raised in the book go to the core of who we are as Americans. For example, when you’re talking about is this or is this not a Christian nation, how do you respond to that question of what is the role of Christ in our nation’s past, and what will it be as you can see it as we go forward?
Carson: Well, our founders were Christians. There were some Jews involved, as well; so we are a Judeo-Christian nation. Many people have tried to rewrite history have said that George Washington, Ben Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson were deist – people who just thought there is a God who puts things in motion and then takes a hike and leaves everything to itself. And that’s why in the book, I put so many quotes from our founders that demonstrate unequivocally that they believed in an active God, and they sought help from Him all the time. Benjamin Franklin, at the time of the Constitutional Convention, when the whole thing was about to fall apart, he stood up in front of the whole assembly, at 81 years old, and he said, “Gentlemen, stop.” He said, “During the Revolutionary War, every other phrase out of our mouth was, ‘Lord help us,’ and now you don’t even want to talk about God.”
Carson: He said, “We need to get down on our knees, and we need to pray for wisdom.” And the whole assembly knelt and prayed, and when they got up, they put together a 16 and 1/3 page document known as the Constitution of the United States.
There is no question about who we are. All you have to do is look at our money. Every coin, every bill says, “In God We Trust.” Our Pledge of Allegiance says, “We are one nation under God.” The fourth stanza of the National Anthem talks about God. We really shouldn’t be trying to deny who we are, because traditionally before the decline of a great nation, they forget who they are. We’re in the process of throwing it away.
CVB: So how do we stem that tide?
Carson: Well, the key thing is you got to stand up. You’ve got to be vocal about it. You can’t allow the forces of political correction to shut you up. I mean, why are people afraid to say, “Merry Christmas?” Give me a break. If people don’t like it, yeah, they can go do something else. I find very few people who really are offended by that. I think it’s a very small number of secular progressives who happen to have microphones, and they try to mold everybody into their way of thinking. And you think about this, during the time of Hitler, most of those Germans did not believe in what he was doing, but did they speak up? No, and look what happened. We could lose our nation, too, if we don’t learn to speak up.
CVB: Yeah, absolutely. I’d like you to address what Lincoln spoke about in the Gettysburg Address, because there are a lot of people who say, “Well, this is one of the great speeches of all time,” and yet it was only two minutes long, but this last sentence he speaks about giving the last full measure of devotion, and then he says that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” That’s really the central message of what you’re trying to get across; is it not?
Carson: It is exactly the message that I’m trying to get across. What he was basically saying is that the only way that we can truly preserve the freedoms and the potential of our nation is for the people’s voices to be heard and not allow it to be subjugated to tyranny and government rule. Most people don’t realize this, but this is what the Tea Party is all about. The Tea Party is not some sinister organized group trying to gain power. The Tea Party simply represents Americans who are saying, “Hey, aren’t we a part of this, too? Don’t we get some say in what’s going on?” And the reason that they’re being demonized is because you have an establishment consisting of both parties who want to maintain their power. They’re not interested in the people having power; they’re interested in continuing to build their empire. So you have to come out with all guns blazing when the people, themselves, try to reassert themselves.
CVB: It’s interesting that you bring up the Tea Party. This leads me to the question of the healthcare situation. You are intimately involved as a physician, and you’ve seen how healthcare has progressed over the years. Where do you see things going? How does this book speak to our national debate over healthcare, and even over what we would call “ObamaCare”?
Carson: Well, you’ll notice in the book that I didn’t just sit there and take swipes at ObamaCare, but I actually proposed ways that we can bring down the costs and put people’s healthcare back in their own hands and create a fiduciary responsibility between the patient and the doctor and to change the relationship with insurance companies. Those are the kinds of things we have to do. We have to address the essential issues that are destroying us – different ways of billing and collections that justify the mountains of paper and the armies of people to push them around, which takes big chunks of money out of each healthcare dollar – this is not even necessary!
I talk about ways of putting preventive healthcare at the forefront, rather than as an afterthought, and ways of shifting the responsibility for catastrophic healthcare from the insurance companies, who hide behind that issue as a mechanism of drastically increasing prices, to the government at a certain price level. So the vast majority of a person’s healthcare obviously could still be done through insurance companies, but when it came to catastrophic things, that becomes a government responsibility. All of those things will help us to reexamine the areas that we need to exam. It will force the government into tort reform, which needs to be done – and will save us a lot of money.
So, basically, I’m looking at practical solutions as opposed to political solutions. And I say in the book, “If the Golden Gate Bridge fell down, who would you get to rebuild it, structural engineers, or people who like to talk about building bridges?” Basically, that’s what we’ve done with medicine – just a bunch of people who like to talk about it but know nothing about it – and that’s why we’ve got what we’ve got now.
CVB: You say that you believe America’s best days are still ahead, but to get there we need to address tough issues facing our country. Can you sum up for me what you hope that this book will do towards helping America to get to that bright future?
Carson: Well, my hope and prayer is that it will help Americans to recognize that we have an extraordinary history. Before this country came on the scene, for thousands of years people did things the same way. Within 200 years of the advent of this nation, men were walking on the moon, and I want us to recognize this is the kind of people that we are. We’re creative with a lot of ingenuity and a lot of energy. But that’s being zapped by a system that is progressively trying to make us dependent. When that happens, we will have lost all of those things that made us great. And my hope is that we will recognize that before we go off the cliff. We’re very close to going off the cliff right now, but we’re not there yet.
Is it possible for people to wake up? It’s just like when Thomas Paine wrote his book, the people were wavering. There were the loyalists and there were the revolutionaries, and they said, “Which way are we going to go?” Then when he wrote Common Sense, everybody said, “Wow,” and all of a sudden it really changed the attitude. Even though the odds of us being able to become an independent nation were incredibly small, we had God on our side. And maybe the odds of us being able to reverse the trend, which no other nation has ever been able to reverse as they’ve been going down the path of destruction, and maybe they’re very small, too, but I think God is on our side and I think we can do it if we really put our minds to it.
CVB: Wonderful, wonderful. Well, thank you for standing up and being a voice in this time, because I agree with you; we’re right on the edge, and we need people like you to be sounding the alarm.
Carson: Absolutely. Well, thank you.
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von Buseck is Ministries Director for CBN.com.
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