There Is No Job More Important Than Parenting Even as a child, Benjamin Carson wanted to be a doctor. Now a renowned pediatric neurosurgeon, Carson believes he owes his success to his mother, a domestic who received only a third-grade education.

There Is No Job More Important Than Parenting

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Unidentified Man #1: I believe in honor, faith and service.

Unidentified Woman #1: I believe that a little outrage...

Unidentified Man #2: I believe in freedom of speech...

Unidentified Woman #2: I believe in empathy.

Unidentified Man #3: I believe in truth.

Unidentified Woman #3: I believe in the ingredients of love.

Unidentified Man #4: This I believe.


On Mondays, we bring you our series, This I Believe. And this morning we're going to hear from Dr. Benjamn Carson. He became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital when he was 33 years old. As a surgeon, he received worldwide attention in 1987 for leading the first medical team to separate twins joined at the back of the head. Here's our series curator, independent producer, Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON reporting:

Dr. Carson grew up in poverty in a single-parent home. His mother had married at age 13 and moved to Detroit with his husband to discover later that he had another family. Divorce followed. Carson was able to rise above his difficult circumstances but not without some help and guidance. Here's Dr. Benjamin Carson, recorded between surgeries, with his essay for This I Believe.

Dr. BENJAMIN CARSON (Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital): The simplest way to say it is this: I believe in my mother. My belief began when I was just a kid. I dreamed of becoming a doctor. My mother was a domestic. Through her work, she observed that successful people spent a lot more time reading than they did watching television. She announced that my brother and I could only watch two to three pre-selected TV programs during the week. With our free time, we had to read two books each from the Detroit Public Library and submit to her written book reports. She would mark them up with check marks and highlights. Years later, we realized her marks were a ruse. My mother was illiterate. She had only received a third-grade education. Although we had no money, between the covers of those books, I could go anywhere, do anything and be anybody.

When I entered high school I was an A student, but not for long. I wanted the fancy clothes. I wanted to hang out with the guys. I went from being an A student to a B student to a C student, but I didn't care. I was getting the high fives and the low fives and the pats on the back. I was cool.

One night my mother came home from working her multiple jobs, and I complained about not having enough Italian knit shirts. She said, `OK, I'll give you all the money I make this week scrubbing floors and cleaning bathrooms, and you can buy the family food and pay the bills. With everything left over, you can have all the Italian knit shirts you want.' I was very pleased with that arrangement, but once I got through allocating money, there was nothing left. I realized my mother was a financial genius to be able to keep a roof over our heads and any kind of food on the table, much less buy clothes.

I also realized that immediate gratification wasn't going to get me anywhere. Success required intellectual preparation. I went back to my studies and became an A student again, and eventually I fulfilled my dream and I became a doctor.

Over the years, my mother's steadfast faith in God has inspired me, particularly when I had to perform extremely difficult surgical procedures, or when I found myself faced with my own medial scare. A few years ago, I discovered I had a very aggressive form of prostate cancer. I was told it might have spread to my spine. My mother was steadfast in her faith in God. She never worried. She said that God was not through with me yet. There was no way that this was going to be a major problem. The abnormality in my spine turned out to be benign. I was able to have surgery and am cured.

My story is really my mother's story, a woman with little formal education or worldly goods who used her position as a parent to change the lives of many people around the globe. There is no job more important than parenting. This I Believe.

ALLISON: Dr. Benjamin Carson with his essay for This I Believe, recorded at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Incidentally, Carson's mother did eventually teach herself to read, got her GED, attended college and, in 1994, received an honorary doctorate degree making her a Dr. Carson, too.

We're inviting everyone to write essays for our series, and you can find out more at our Web site,, or by calling (202) 408-0300. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison.

INSKEEP: This I Believe continues next Monday on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED with an essay from Senator John McCain of Arizona.

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