I've been seeing Dr. Ben Carson's recent National Prayer Breakfast speech floating around the internet and haven't paid it much attention. I cranked it up Friday in the car as I was leaving the studio and decided that -- about two minutes in -- while Dr. Carson is certainly a gifted speaker, I didn't expect his speech to satisfy my hunger for intellectual stimulation (such as this discussion between Jonah Goldberg and Joshua Trevino that I -- stalker alert -- have now consumed three times).
I ran across Dr. Carson's speech again this morning while perusing Twitter, and I figured I'd give it a passive listen as I cleaned the kitchen. I knew little of him (not quite sure how I've missed him all these years) so didn't know what to expect. He's black so I assumed he was a Democrat. He was five feet from President Obama so I predicted this would be a tepid, irritatingly balanced address. And he's a pastor, so I expected predictable references to scriptures that I've likely had memorized since I was ten years old.
I kicked it on anyway.
By the end of the speech, I was so completely sucked in that I couldn’t tell you how long I'd left the water running in the sink, and had practically bent in half the dirty fork I was holding. I found myself shouting "Yes!" as I paced the kitchen floor, nodding my head in agreement with every word Dr. Carson spoke.
A dear friend of mine often says, "the American experiment isn't complicated." I’ve always rolled my eyes at that notion. I liked to be challenged. I'm a lover of the late William F. Buckley Jr. and present-day conservative thought leaders like Thomas Sowell, Andrew McCarthy, Arthur Brooks – the list is endless. These minds are crucial in influencing the development of public policy. But as conservatives, have we bought into the lie that we need to disguise ourselves in order to compete with self-proclaimed hyper-intellectual progressives who have infiltrated our institutions of education, as well as our channels of political discourse? The American public increasingly believes the problems we face are too vast and too complicated for the layperson to solve or comprehend. Have we, with this in mind, given up on communicating with the average American?
The average American isn’t driving around listening to Senate floor speeches and Weekly Standard podcasts. The average American is busy, distracted, and consumed with self-interest. The average American likely enjoyed this year's Super Bowl halftime show! The average American needs a message that can be easily digested.
And the average American’s vote counts just as much as that of the most scholarly political mind.
Enter Dr. Ben Carson.
Everyone should watch this speech. Parents should require their children to watch it (and, while they're at it, write a subsequent report). Folks of every political persuasion and religion should watch it. Every talk show host and every politician should study it, not just for its content, but also to observe the simplicity of the words chosen, the profound and inspiring tone of the message, and the bold, unapologetic approach to issues that polarize our country.
Above all, this speech is positive.
Dr. Carson rejects political correctness, prioritizes the importance of education, boldly advocates all should have access to healthcare, acknowledges that the rich man should pay his fair share, and warns us against going down a path of self-destruction and mediocrity.
Given that description, can you tell if he’s a Democrat or Republican? Likely, you cannot. And that’s the way it should be if we are to effectively reach the masses.
Keep it simple, sweetie.
Enjoy the speech, and then buy Dr. Carson's book America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made this Nation Great. (I just did.)
Thanks for reading.