Abraham Lincoln once said, “All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Such an observation is also evident throughout the life and success of Dr. Ben Carson.
Ben Carson grew up in the penurious community of downtown Detroit, was raised by a mother who was not educated beyond the third grade and performed poorly throughout his early school years. Regardless of the countless restrictions that were imposed on him, Carson persevered throughout his life and has become a renowned neurosurgeon; however, his success was by no means entirely his own doing, for his mother, Sonya, was the one who influenced Ben to endure against all odds.
In order to ensure that her children would have the opportunity she had been denied, Sonya required that Ben read two books a week and write reports on his readings. Despite her illiteracy, Sonya would comment on, highlight and underline errors in these reports, thereby insisting that he learn from his mistakes. While his friends played outside and anticipated dropping out of school, Ben spent time reading books from the local public library and improving his grades in order to please his mother. Over time, he began to read out of his own enjoyment, and not because the task was required. Between the covers of his books, he was able to realize his own potential to achieve the unachievable.
The library, however, was not the only place Ben became accustomed to. Since his family was one of many on medical assistance, Ben spent significant time in the local hospital, where he would observe physicians saving lives and began to dream about becoming a physician himself. Sonya must have noticed the ambition and aspiration in her son’s eyes, for she would constantly remind her son that he had the ability to live his dreams.
Through his hard work, Ben realized that he could achieve what no one but his mother knew he could achieve. Within a few years, he began to surprise his instructors by rising to the top of his class, prompting one of his instructors to scold the more privileged students for allowing Carson to surpass them scholastically.
In order to ensure that educational opportunities were always available for her children, Sonya worked two or three jobs at a time. On most days, she would work from the crack of dawn until dusk, going from one job to the next. Her strict maintenance of the household, as well as her values, proved to be a significant influence on Ben.
With the help of his mother and school teachers, Ben graduated with honors from his high school, attended Yale University and earned a degree in psychology. After graduating from Yale, Ben was accepted to the University of Michigan School of Medicine, where he would study to become a neurosurgeon. Later on, he would become a chief resident, and subsequently, the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In the next few years, Ben would draw international attention for separation surgeries on conjoined twins from Germany and South Africa. He would go on to establish his own scholarship fund, write a New York Times best seller, accept more than 50 honorary doctorate degrees, become a member of the Alpha Honor Medical Society and the Horatio Alger Society of Distinguished Americans, serve on the executive boards of several businesses and educational institutions, be recognized by the Library of Congress, CNN and Time magazine, and be awarded the Ford’s Theater Lincoln Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former President George W. Bush.
It was evident that his mother had raised him well.
Through it all, Ben exemplified the ambition, potential and mindset necessary to overcome the most burdensome obstacles. Though he was raised in poverty, Ben realized that he had the ability to better his situation through education. The values that his mother instilled in him enabled him to achieve more than those who bullied him at a younger age.
This story serves as an example of the work that our mothers do. Throughout our lives, our mothers sacrifice and endure so that we can live by their example and become successful in our endeavors. I sincerely hope that we can all take the time, today, to reflect and to thank our mothers for such sacrifice, for it may very well be the reason we are here today.
Mousa Alshanteer is a Trinity freshman. His column runs every other Thursday. You can follow Mousa on Twitter @mousaalshanteer.