WASHINGTON, May 9, 2015 – Last week, Dr. Benjamin Carson announced that he would be running for President of the United States. It has been suggested in some quarters that, given the country’s experience with the current occupant of the White House, the public will be looking for a person who has been a governmental and/or business executive to serve as the next President, and that Dr. Carson would not fit that bill.
However, history has taught that such experience is no guarantee of a successful presidency as has been exemplified by the less than stellar presidency of former Georgia Governor, Jimmy Carter, who had also previously run a successful family peanut farm. On the other hand, a lack of extensive governmental or business experience does not necessarily portend a failed presidency. Harry Truman had tried his hand at various less-than-successful business endeavors. He was a two-time senator from Missouri and was vice-president for only 82 days before assuming the presidency after Franklin Roosevelt’s death. The closest he came to executive experience was as a county commissioner and judge. Yet, history has to come to regard Harry Truman as a truly significant president, who in a 2000 C-Span poll of scholars and historians was ranked the fifth greatest president.
Ronald Reagan, who by virtually all standards was a great president, demonstrated that strength of conviction, combined with the experience and quality of cabinet members and staff, are key to a successful presidency. He surrounded himself with accomplished, strong, and knowledgeable advisors and cabinet members, including his first Chief of Staff, James Baker, who had worked for Reagan’s primary opponent. Facing a Democratic House of Representatives, he was able to push through a significant tax rate reduction. At Reykjavik with Russia’s Gorbachev, rather than give up his Strategic Defense Initiative, he courageously walked away from a tempting offer of significant nuclear arms reductions for which he was roundly condemned.
Dr. Benjamin Carson has demonstrated an ability to overcome great odds and surround himself with accomplished professionals both as colleagues and friends. He rose from the depths of poverty and prejudice to become, before his retirement, the world’s foremost pediatric neurosurgeon. In putting together a group of some 50 surgeons and staff to successfully separate, for the first time, cephalically-conjoined twins, he exhibited the facility to address and solve a complex dilemma, and to organize a team of diverse medical specialists to complete the surgical task.
Administrative skills were necessary when he served as Johns Hopkins’ Director of the Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery and the co-director of its Cleft and Craniofacial Center. Dr. Carson has served for many years on the corporate boards of both Costco and Kellogg. What he doesn’t have, as he noted in his announcement speech, is experience with budget busting.
If his exploratory committee chairman, Houston businessman Terry Giles, and four of the guests he brought to the forefront when, last year, he substituted for a syndicated radio talk host are any measure, Dr. Carson will employ very competent persons to assist in governing the country. His friendship with these men is evidence that his knowledge and interests range far outside the medical community.
Mr. Giles, like Dr. Carson, came from humble beginnings to become a very successful lawyer and businessman. He is now Chairman of Giles Enterprises which owns varied business interests. Curtis Robinson is the owner of a construction management company. Gordon Gund is a blind businessman, inventor, philanthropist, former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and a director of the Kellogg Company and Corning, Inc. Steven Huff is a physicist involved with cutting edge energy-saving technology.
Tony Nobles, a biomechanical engineer, is the developer of over 155 medical devices. All are innovators who know how to think outside the box.
Like Ronald Reagan, Dr. Carson also had a regular Washington Times column. These commentaries discussed and analyzed the major domestic and foreign policy issues of the day. In those articles, he showed himself adept at understanding the wide range of subjects which a President must address.
This experience stands in clear contrast to the current president’s sparse resume and total lack of any significant accomplishment before having assumed the presidency.
America should welcome a man of Dr. Carson’s background and experience grateful that such a person is available, endure the strenuous demands of a presidential campaign, and open himself to the derision that every candidate always faces.
Richard Maggi is a writer and an attorney in New Jersey.