Dr. Benjamin Carson, a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, spoke to students Tuesday.
He encouraged each student to learn from the past. Referencing the many failed medical procedures in the first years of kidney transplants, heart transplants and others, Carson said that “by continuing to accumulate knowledge from those failures we are able to do those things quite routinely today. And that’s a general principle about life. Learning from mistakes, learning from things that didn’t work, not only on an individual basis but on a national basis, there have been things we’ve done that have been wrong as a nation, but we have learned from those things and made progress.”
Dr. Carson brought an engaging sense of humor to campus, reminding everyone to not take offense and to not worry about being politically correct.
“What I have discovered in recent years is that it is virtually impossible these days to talk to a large group of people without offending someone,” he said. “I was talking to a group one time about the differences between a human brain and a dog’s brain and a lady got offended and said ‘You can’t talk about dogs like that.’”
In the same vein, he added, “I really do not believe in politically correct messages and in fact I actually think it’s extremely dangerous. It seems to me like a lot of people who founded this nation came here trying to escape from people who tried to tell you what you could say and what you could think. And here we come reintroducing it through the back door. Really the emphasis should not be on indemnity of speech and indemnity of thought. The emphasis should be on learning to be respectful of people with whom they disagree.”
He advocated the need for varying opinions—if two people think the same about everything, he said, one of them isn’t necessary—and called for respect and kindness in discussing those.
Coupled with his frank humor was a deep sense of patriotism and a message to be educated, bless the lives of others with that education and to be nice to everyone. He even invited each student to raise their hand and make a pledge that for one week they would be nice to everyone, including roommates, family, custodians, food servers, anyone.
“In the elevator,” he said, “don’t pretend you’ve never seen the numbers light up before; talk to people. Don’t just act like they don’t exist because they do exist, and Jesus Christ died for them, too.”
He reminded the students that most of Germany was opposed to what Adolf Hitler did, but no one said anything, and suggested that consequences come when educated people don’t stand up for values.
“We have allowed people with a microphone and loud voices to define the culture, to define who we are and how we must think and what we must study,” he said. “If we continue to allow that insidious erosion of the very values that make this great nation, we will in fact suffer the consequences.”
In closing his address, Dr. Carson suggested that everyone “Think Big” and assigned a meaning to each letter:
“T is for talent which God gave to every person, not just the ability to sing and dance but intellectual talent. Let’s not be hypercritical about it.”
“H is for honesty, don’t put skeletons in the closet, because if you put them there they will come back to haunt you. If you always tell the truth you don’t have to remember what you said three months ago.”
“The I is for insight into other people; learn from their triumphs, learn from their mistakes. As a nation we must learn from our triumphs and learn from our mistakes.”
“The N is for nice. Be nice to people. Because once they get over the suspicion of why you’re being nice to them they’ll be nice to you, and you get so much more done when you’re being nice and they’re being nice.”
“The K is for knowledge which is the thing that makes you a more valuable person. . . . With knowledge, wisdom, and understanding you can get all the gold and silver you ever wanted but you will also come to realize that those things don’t amount to a hill of beans. The most important thing is to develop your God-given talents to the point where you become valuable to the people around you.”
“B is for books which are a mechanism for obtaining that knowledge. You know it’s never too late. A lot of people say, ‘I don’t need to read. I can learn everything I need to by watching videos.’ That’s like saying you can develop your muscles by watching somebody else lift weights, it doesn’t work that way.”
“The second I is for in-depth learning. Learning for the sake of knowledge and understanding.”
“The last letter, G, is for God. We live in a country that is trying to make God politically incorrect. . . . We need to make it perfectly clear that it’s okay to live by godly principles of loving your fellow man, of caring about your neighbor, of developing your God-given talents so that you become valuable to the people around you, of having values and principles that govern your life. If we do that, not only will we remain a pinnacle nation but we will truly have one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”