Dr. Ben Carson spoke in Centennial Chapel at Olivet Nazarene University on Oct. 1. Students responded to the surprise speaker with a standing ovation.
The 2016 presidential hopeful was tentatively scheduled to speak a few months ago, but only confirmed about 10 days ago, President of Olivet Dr. John Bowling said.
“We asked him to come to campus, not for a campaign rally, but for him to tell his story,” Bowling said. With his calm demeanor and soft-spoken speech, Carson, who is popular among conservative Christians, retold the testimony of God’s providence in his life.
Carson spoke to students about the poverty in which he grew up, the belief his mother had in him to be independent and rise above his circumstances, and how God equips people with “special gifts and talents, based on what he wants them to do.”
“[My mother] refused to be a victim and never felt sorry for herself – which meant she never felt sorry for us either,” Carson said with a chuckle. “‘Do you have a brain?’” Carson recited words that his mother used to tell him. “‘Then you can think your way out of it.’”
Carson also spoke about how he had to overcome his temper as a teenager. Otherwise, he had three options: “Reform school, prison, or the grave.”
Carson turned to God in those moments and came to an understanding that “lashing out was not a sign of strength, it was a sign of weakness, because you can easily be controlled; you can easily be manipulated by others … and if you’re always angry, then you’re selfish.”
After three hours spent locked in his bathroom in prayer, Carson said his temper was gone and has not had a problem with anger since. “When God fixes a problem, he doesn’t do a paint job, he fixes it from the inside … I truly believe that if we’re willing to let God be in charge, there are just amazing things he will do. We will have true success,” he said.
Charles Thomas with ABC 7 Chicago said after the message, “There was chuckle, chuckle, chuckle throughout the whole speech.” You don’t get jokes in a debate setting, but here his message was “a window into [Carson’s] faith,” Thomas said.
“I’m glad we get to know the person behind the campaign,” Student Body President senior Chelsea Risinger said. Risinger introduced Carson to a group of about 70 invited to a reception following chapel.
“College and high school audiences are my favorite because there’s so many impressionable young people,” Carson said. “This was an abbreviated speech. I typically talk about the values of our country and the things we need to do to strengthen them.”
Following chapel, Carson had an interview with ABC 7 Chicago and The Daily Journal in Kankakee.
“The purveyors of discourse have taken control and there’s a war on everything. People will have you believe if you disagree with someone you are mortal enemies,” Carson said.
In Rome, Carson continued, everything was relative. They were worried about political correctness. “They lost their identity; they lost their vision,” he said. “We are in the process of the same thing, willing to give up our values and principles for political correctness. Unless we cease this opportunity to change our [direction], disaster awaits us. All we have to do is look at the history of other nations and see mistakes they have made and not repeat the same silliness.”
Carson was Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for 29 years. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then President George W. Bush in 2008. He has written eight books, co-authoring two with his wife, Candy Carson. He announced he was running for the Republican nomination in May in his hometown of Detroit, Mich.
Carson’s visit to Olivet was co-sponsored by The Center for Law and Culture with Freedom’s Journal Institute for the Study of Faith and Culture.