NICK EICHER, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: a preview of The Olasky Interview.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Before Dr. Ben Carson became the United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, he was the director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins. In 2012, Marvin Olasky interviewed Dr. Carson. They talked about Carson’s childhood, about how he escaped poverty, and about how as a physician, he separated conjoined twins.
In this excerpt, Carson describes how a television program changed his life.
MARVIN OLASKY: I also want to ask you about the role of G.E. College Bowl.
CARSON: It was my favorite TV program. Came on at six o’clock on Sunday. They would pit two colleges against each other. Four contestants on each side. Ask questions about science, math, history, geography. And I was actually very good at those things so I wanted to be on College Bowl.
But they would also ask questions about classical art and classical music. Now I got to tell you at Southwestern High School in Detroit, if you said something about Van Gogh they would have said: “put gas in it, the van will go.” I mean they would have had no idea what you were talking about. So you know I had to make an executive decision to do, to learn all that on my own. I always listened to my portable radio. Bach, Telemann, Mozart. And kids in Detroit thought I was nuts. I mean can you imagine a black kid in Motown listening to Mozart. You know I tried to convince them that the “mo” in Motown was from Mozart. But nobody was nobody was believing that. And I even decided which college to attend based on CollegeBowl. Because I had enough money to apply to one college. I said I’m going to apply to the college that wins the grand championship of College Bowl.
Well that year the grand championship was between Harvard and Yale, and Yale just demolished Harvard. And I don’t want to go to a school with a bunch of dummies. So yeah I applied to Yale and fortunately they accepted me with a, with a scholarship. But the year I went there was the year College Bowl went off the air. So, I know it’s sad. But but but years later when I decided that I wanted to be a neurosurgeon and, you know, I said what’s the best place for neurosurgery? Johns Hopkins. The only problem is they only took two people a year out of one hundred and twenty five top applicants. So how was I going to get to be one of them? Well it turns out when I went there for my interview, the guy in charge of the residency program, George Uderhigh, was also in charge of cultural affairs at the hospital. And we talked a little bit about medicine. And then we start talking about neurosurgery. And then we somehow we start talking about classical music. And we talk for over an hour about different composers and their styles. Conductors, orchestras, orchestral halls. The man was on cloud nine. There was no way he wasn’t taking me in the program.
And you know, I love to tell young people that story because, to emphasize the point that there is no such thing as useless knowledge. And you never know what doors it’s going to come to open up for you. And some people say, you’ll overload your brain. I’ll tell you as a neuroscientist you cannot overload your brain. It is absolutely impossible. Your brain can easily contain all the information from all the volumes ever written since the beginning of the world and have plenty of room left over. So it’s just not an issue.