Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story

Free Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story by Ben Carson

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Authors: Ben Carson
of twelfth grade. I could hardly believe it myself. From the second half of tenth grade (10A) I had gone from private to lieutenant colonel by the time I reached 12B. I still had a full semester of school left, and another field-grade examination was coming up. That meant I actually had an opportunity to become colonel. If I made it, I would be one of three ROTC colonels in Detroit.
    I sat for the exam again and did the best of all the competitors. I was made city executive officer over all the schools.
    I had realized my dream. I had gotten all the way to colonel even though I had joined ROTC late. Several times I thought, Well, Curtis, you got me started, and you made captain. I've passed you, but I wouldn't have gotten into the ROTC if you hadn't done it first .
    At the end of my twelfth grade I marched at the head of the Memorial Day parade. I felt so proud, my chest bursting with ribbons and braids of every kind. To make it more wonderful, we had important visitors that day. Two soldiers who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor in Viet Nam were present. More exciting to me, General William Westmoreland (very prominent in the Viet Nam war) attended with an impressive entourage. Afterward, Sgt. Hunt introduced me to General Westmoreland, and I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.
    I didn't refuse the scholarship outright, but I let them know that a military career wasn't where I saw myself going. As overjoyed as I felt to be offered such a scholarship, I wasn't really tempted. The scholarship would have obligated me to spend four years in military service after I finished college, precluding my chances to go on to medical school. I knew my direction—I wanted to be a doctor, and nothing would divert me or stand in the way.
    Of course the offer of a full scholarship flattered me. I was developing confidence in my abilities—just like my mother had been telling me for at least the past ten years. Unfortunately I carried it a little too far. I started to believe that I was one of the most spectacular and smartest people in the world. After all, I had made this unprecedented showing in ROTC, and I stood at the top of my school academically. The big colleges wrote to me and sent out their representatives to recruit me.
    Meeting representatives from places like Harvard and Yale made me feel special and important because they wanted to recruit me. Few of us get enough experience at feeling special and important, and I was no exception. I didn't know how to handle all the attention. The school reps flocked around me because of my high academic achievements, and because I had done exceptionally well on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), ranking somewhere in the low ninetieth percentile—again, unheard of from a student in the inner city of Detroit.
    I laugh sometimes when I think of my secret for scoring so high on the SAT. Back when my mother would allow us to watch only two or three television shows and insisted that we read two books a week, I did just that. One program—
my favorite—was the General Electric College Bowl . On that program—a quiz show—students from colleges around the country sat as contestants and competed with each other. The master of ceremonies asked factual questions and challenged the knowledge of those students.
    All week I looked forward to Sunday nights. In my mind, I had already focused on another secret goal—to be a contestant on the program. To get the chance to appear, I knew I'd have to be knowledgeable in many subjects, so I broadened my range of reading interests. Having inherited a job in the science laboratory after Curtis graduated helped me tremendously because the science teachers saw my desire to know more. They gave me extra tutoring and suggested books or articles for me to read. Although I was doing well in most of the academic subjects, I realized I didn't know a lot about the arts.
    I started going

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