Dr. Ben Carson, the celebrated neurosurgeon who has recently become a rising star among political conservatives, was a big hit in Atlanta this week at the Fulton County Republican Party’s Spring Reception, termed “An Evening With Dr. Carson.”
The event at the Westin Buckhead was attended by some of the state’s biggest names including Gov. Nathan Deal, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and majority Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones, the number two Republican in the Georgia House.
Carson’s name has quickly become one of the most hallowed in GOP circles and he’s been mentioned as a possible presidential candidate. Though the neurosurgeon has maintained he has “no intention of running for political office,” his talk Thursday night hit on more than a few political notes.
“One of the problems that we’re facing in the nation now is we don’t seem to learn,” said Carson in response to a question about government assistance. “We look at things happening and they’re not working, so we say, ‘Let’s double down on it. Let’s do it even more.’ This is idiotic.”
Before his speech to a room that event organizers tallied at 500 people, Carson spoke to a handful of VIPs who had shelled out $500 each for a chance to meet with him one-on-one and get a copy of his latest book, “America The Beautiful.”
He was introduced by Gov. Deal who was unable to stay for the event because of a commitment to host a homeless shelter fundraiser in Gainesville. During his introduction, the governor showered Carson with effusive praise, calling him “an inspirational figure.”
“People like Dr. Carson come along rarely in our lives and when we do have those individuals we certainly need to listen to their story, listen to what they have to say, the instructions that they have to give,” he said.
Carson is the author of six books, including his autobiography “Gifted Hands,” which was the subject of a made-for-television movie in 2009. And though he is still acting director of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, his apparent criticism of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act legislation during February’s National Prayer Breakfast has garnered him high praise from conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
Since that speech he has been on something of a nationwide tear, speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in March and on Fox News the same month. The latter appearance landed him in some hot water because of a comment he made comparing homosexuality to bestiality and child molestation. The comments generated a petition from Johns Hopkins University students asking the administration to remove Carson as their commencement speaker. He eventually decided to withdraw.
But the controversy seems to have only strengthened his resolve. His speech to the full house of the Fulton GOP consisted of many of the themes he has hit since the prayer breakfast, including a particular emphasis on education.
He called for the Republican party to support schools being funded statewide, rather than by individual community income, saying the current process “leads to disproportionate allocation of resources that is not beneficial to society.”
He also dove into themes like stopping political correctness, problems with the US tax code, welfare and government assistance, American exceptionalism, the national debt and deficit and poverty. But he spent the majority of his time talking about his family, particularly his mother who was one of 24 children and had only a third grade education.
“I’ve been successful only because I had a mother that wouldn’t give up on me when everybody else did,” Carson said. “She helped me to discover that the person in the world who has the most to do with what happened to you was you.”
His speech received a standing ovation.
“Here is a guy that has personified all the things that make America great,” said District 6 State Senator Hunter Hill, who attended the speech and VIP reception. “The fact that he can do that, you know, he can come from nothing and become a brain surgeon; brain surgeons are the most impressive people in our culture and so he achieved that and we want to do nothing but honor that.”
Though Carson has called himself an Independent and suggested that he has no political affiliation at times, he did routinely talk about how Republicans could be more successful, particularly in poor and Black communities.
“When we look at the big picture, what we have to think about when we look out there in some of the depressed sections of Atlanta and we see desperate kids running around and we see how many people being incarcerated, what we need to do is say, ‘What can we do to stop that?’ And the answer is not more handouts,” he said. “For every one of those little kids that goes down the path of self-destruction that’s one more person that we have to be afraid of and protect our family from. So we really can’t afford to let them go down go down that path.”
When asked by the Daily World how he would personally further the goal of bringing more African Americans to the Republican party, he responded, “by talking about it like I am right now.”