Ben Carson on the ‘crowning jewel of America’

News & Observer columnist Barry Saunders contributes this piece based on his interview with Dr. Ben Carson of Johns Hopkins University. (Dr. Carson will be the headline speaker at a fundraiser to provide partial scholarships to families in need. More info here.)

Years ago, a man who worked as a soccer referee called to tell me that Raleigh’s Upper Room Christian Academy was one of the schools whose games he officiated.

At the time, the Upper Room Church of God In Christ’s polarizing pastor, Patrick Wooden, was embroiled in one controversy or another and was much in the news. That’s not what the soccer official wanted to talk about, though.

Never, the ref gushed, had he encountered children as well-behaved and mannerly as those from Upper Room. I don’t remember his exact quote, but the words “character” and “values” still stand out.

Dr. Benjamin Carson, the much-sought-after, world famous neurosurgeon who is retiring this week from medicine for a possible life in politics, said the same thing when asked why he was kicking off his post-medicine career as the featured speaker at a scholarship fundraiser for the church’s school Thursday.

“For one thing, they asked me,” Carson responded. “For another thing, it’s a place that is advocating values in a nation where we’re trying to get rid of values.”

I was picking my jaw up off the floor and forgot to ask who was trying to get rid of values.

Since so many on the right who’ve recently adopted Dr. Carson as their hero speak only about what is wrong with America, I asked the famed surgeon what’s good – you know, what about America excites him.

“I’m excited about the potential that still exists,” he said. “I was in India two weeks ago, looking at the squalor there and recognizing how difficult it would be for somebody to rise. They have a caste system. In this country, however, you can come from nowhere and you can go to the top if you’re willing to work hard and take responsibility for yourself.

“That’s probably the crowning jewel of America,” he said.