Well before Dr. Benjamin Carson ever set foot at the podium to face the audience at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C. on Feb. 7, the renowned neurosurgeon was already a brand on his own in the field of medicine.
In 1987, he became the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins and stamped his place in medical history. When his biography, Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was subsequently published in 1990, the Christian doctor who rejects the theory of evolution became a global inspiration.
His story of triumph over crushing poverty in Detroit to become the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., at the age of 33 became a well-known and compelling narrative. And the doctor has been speaking and inspiring with his message of personal responsibility, moral integrity and discipline ever since.
From a passion wrought out of his personal experience with education, Carson and his wife, who have three adult sons, also decided to start the Carson Scholars Fund sixteen years ago. The Fund, according to Carson, celebrates and supports the achievements of "intellectual superstars" in schools across America.
But on Feb. 7, when Carson hit the podium, America heard his thoughts on something else – government. The neurosurgeon surprised the audience, which included President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, with his thoughts on government policy in areas such as taxation, education and debt management.
Now, with a growing chorus of social conservatives clamoring for him to run for president, everyone wants to know, who is Benjamin Carson?
"We don't know much about Ben Carson except for his personal biography," said noted Columbia University political scientist, Fredrick Harris in an interview with the Christian Post on Tuesday.
Those who know Carson or are familiar with him will only talk about Benjamin Carson the man, not his politics.
"I don't know him more than anybody else. I know of his good deeds. He is a good man as far as I know," said Dr. Franklin W. Knight, Leonard and Helen R Stulman Professor of history and director of the Center of Africana Studies at Johns Hopkins.
"One of the things that we are committed to here at Spencerville is that we guard Dr. Carson's privacy very much," said Patrick Morrison, associate pastor at the Spencerville Seventh Day Adventist Church in Maryland, where Carson is a member. He would only say that Carson, who also sits on the board of several for-profit companies like The Kellogg Company and Costco Wholesale Corporation, is an active member of the church. He attends services regularly and teaches a class as well.
"He is quiet and humble. He is a man of faith and a man of integrity," said Morrison of Carson. And that's the mantra repeated by almost everyone who knows him.