Carson knew he wanted to be a doctor from the age of eight. But it was psychiatry, not brain surgery, that was his first love. His older brother Curtis had scrimped and saved to buy young Bennie a subscription to Psychology Today for his 13th birthday. Carson struggled with the articles but was enthralled, and read every book on the field he could get his hands on. All the headshrinkers on TV seemed so worldly and smart, and, as Carson puts it, he “figured that with so many crazy people living in the United States, psychiatrists must make a good living.” The teenage Carson grew so confident in his budding knowledge of psychology that he fancied himself Kid Analyst to schoolmates and friends. He’d ask them “What’s troubling you today?” and “Do you want to talk about it?” and many in his cohort confided their hopes and fears to him.
4. He was a medal-winning marksman and a dining companion of General William Westmoreland.
Despite having joined high-school ROTC a semester late, Carson was a superstar cadet, racking up medals in drill and riflery. He flew through the ranks, moving from private to second lieutenant in a year and change and then so thoroughly acing his field-grade exams (he set a new record) that he leap-frogged straight to lieutenant colonel, and then became one of three full-bird colonels in all of Detroit. In recognition of his achievement, a 17-year-old Carson was given the opportunity to dine with General William Westmoreland, the top U.S. commander in Vietnam, and was offered a full scholarship to West Point.
5. B.H.O. isn’t the first president he’s rubbed elbows with.
This week was Carson’s second appearance at a National Prayer Breakfast. He first addressed the gathering in 1997, when it was President Bill Clinton seated at his right (he got in a few un-PC digs there as well, bashing touchy-feely modern parenting and using the same U.S./Rome comparison). In 2008, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George W. Bush, who called Carson “a scholar, a healer, and a leader.” He is also a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, which is given to extraordinary self-made Americans. Other recipients include Herman Cain, Bob Dole, and Phil Gramm, along with Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Herbert Hoover, and Ronald Reagan. Perhaps there is a trend here.