Perhaps the most interesting thing about Dr. Ben Carson is the emerging possibility that he may be the springboard for moderate to conservative African-Americans to jump off and courageously face what I gather is considerable peer pressure and ridicule from their liberal brethren, both black and white.

Consider the following from Paul Middleton: “What a great article! Being stationed in Washington, D.C., for 10 of my Air Force years, I learned of Dr. Carson and his book, ‘Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,’ before retiring in 1997. He is truly gifted and I’m not surprised of his conservative leaning. Many (fellow) African-Americans — my age and younger — fully understand and embrace many conservative principles. The problem historically is that we never got the love back unless we ‘repudiated’ other African-Americans of liberal persuasion. Dr. Carson’s approach of speaking directly to issues as opposed to speaking directly to or about a specific person has long been our preferred way of stating positions on political issues.

“Recognition of conservative African-Americans is long overdue.”

Jeanette Hardage has read the book and says that it should be an inspiration to anyone. “The story is especially good for teens and preteens,” she writes.

Much to my surprise (and embarrassment), I’m just now learning that Dr. Carson spoke at last year’s MUSC commencement program. I wasn’t in the least bit aware of Dr. Carson at the time, so even if I heard about his speech, it didn’t register.

Carson withdrawal

Carson, of course, does have his critics. Rick Stringer writes, “He is a great doctor with a great life story. But he can’t save the Republican Party, which is on the wrong side of every major issue. His conflation of homosexuality to bestiality is troubling. His nonbelief in evolution is more troubling. But the clincher for me is his belief that the Earth is 6,000 years old. Mind boggling.”

He’s correct that Carson has made some poorly chosen remarks lately. Consequently, some of the backlash Carson has received precipitated his recent withdrawal as graduation speaker at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, ceding to demands from students about his recent comments on gay marriage.

According to The Washington Post, Carson did mention bestiality and pedophilia while arguing against gay marriage.

“(Traditional marriage is) a well-established, fundamental pillar of society and no group — be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they the people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are — they don’t get to change the definition,” Carson said in a Fox News interview, referencing the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which seeks to overturn pedophilia laws.

Carson apologized, but it was too late. Now certain elements of the left want to skewer him like a well-roasted shish kabab. The invective is ... well, decide for yourself.

Another point of view

Consider excerpts from David Clark’s two-page, single-spaced manifesto: “The schadenfreude was tasty as I enjoyed your (column on Carson), even as concurrent events presented your hero as a complete horse’s ass. ... (His) faux apologies, of course, are of the typical conservative if-anyone-was-offended insincere type that neither acknowledge his error nor recognize its violence to others. ... I’d say that when your boss calls out your behavior using the language (Johns Hopkins Dean of Medicine Dr. Paul) Rothman did, then you probably ought to concentrate on the OR (operating room) work you’re good at, and not on your after-hours hobby of being a social provocateur and useful idiot for the Republicans”

Dr. Charles Summerall, on the other hand, regrets that Carson withdrew. “It should not have happened,” he writes. “Great persons should not, in spite of frequent recent examples, be penalized for their moral or political statements — as opposed to their moral behavior. A current S.C. example comes to mind.”

Another type of leader

The Citadel’s Col. Ben Legare told me an amusing anecdote relating to his 14- and 10-year-old grandsons. He had heard a talk by friend and classmate Gen. Bill Hartzog, in which the latter addressed the complexities of leadership, but remarked that any situation can be initially handled with a simplistic and yet effective leadership style: Look at the situation, focus on key elements of it and then take action.

Do that much and you’ve at least done something.

The colonel explained this to his 14-year-old grandson and it seemed to sink in.

A couple of weeks later, the family was out to dinner. The 10-year-old seemed to be having problems with the menu as the waitress approached to take their order. “Come on,” said his older brother. “Look at the menu, focus on what you like and take action.”

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@ comcast.net.