Ben Carson has been a busy man lately.
Despite campaigning almost nonstop since declaring his run for the presidency in May, steadily rising up in polls after televised GOP debates and defending a growing list of controversial comments, he has found time to promote his book, A More Perfect Union. His book tour will take him through Bryan on Oct. 19 when he stops at Hastings Entertainment to sign copies.
The neurosurgeon, who is now a leading Republican candidate for president, spoke with The Eagle on Saturday while visiting the swing state of South Carolina. He didn't have anything to complain about -- except the rain hadn't let up at all day -- and he was encouraged by the positive attitudes he saw from people recovering from flooding.
Carson is the author of eight other books, but he said his life is a little different now compared to when he started writing A More Perfect Union.
"A lot of time has been spent trying to educate the American populous, and I had been doing a lot of speeches for the Washington Speakers Bureau before deciding to run for president," Carson said. "When I made the shift to move to the political arena, it's been extremely challenging, but gratifying."
He said the motivation to run for president came after "watching America deteriorate" and meeting with elderly Americans who "had given up on America and were just waiting to die." Carson also felt like the country has spent recent years in a "stupor" not realizing how far government extended into the lives of American people. So, he said he set out to change that.
Since he started pursuing his goal to make the change he wanted to see, few other topics have drawn more attention to him than his comments on gun legislation following the Roseburg, Oregon, shootings, saying gun control was partially to blame for the Holocaust.
He has been an advocate of re-evaluating or eliminating gun-free zones, and like many other GOP candidates, has pointed to mental health as the source of gun violence. Carson said Texas A&M and other public Texas universities should keep in mind that most of the school shootings in recent years have occurred in gun-free zones.
"I'm not sure making yourself a sitting duck is a good idea," Carson said.
As a psychology major in his undergraduate years, Carson said his shift in interest in the intangible to tangible study of the brain led him to become a neurosurgeon. So, from a psychological standpoint, he said psychologists can play a major role in preventing mass shootings if given the opportunity.
"A lot of these school shooters have severe mental health issues," Carson said. "What we are needing to do is empower mental health professionals to restrain these individuals when they know they are highly dangerous."
Since he will be in Texas A&M's backyard in Bryan in a little more than a week, he discussed the country's steadily increasing tuition costs. His suggestion was to make public universities bear some of the student loan debt themselves, in contrast to Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' plan to tax Wall Street speculation to make public higher education tuition-free.
"The answer is not to create more debt or create income redistribution," Carson said. "We should ask why college tuition is advancing so rapidly and get to the root of the problem."
He said holding universities accountable for the interest on student loans and only making students responsible for the principal of the loan, would effectively force universities to find a way to rein in the cost of a degree.
Following along the lines of Texas A&M, this time examining its military traditions, he said he would put a higher premium on veteran health care with military veteran suicides at an all-time high.
"That's the tip of the iceberg and it says we are not affording them the proper kinds of attention," Carson said.
His plan would be to enroll all service members into a program at enlistment that they would participate in for their entire military career, then establish a system to reintegrate them into civilian life. He said they would also be enrolled in a federally funded health savings program.
"It is exactly the wrong time for our military to be shrinking and our morale to be low," Carson said.
When he visits Bryan on Oct. 19 and then rolls onto his next event in Waco, he wants to encourage the people he meets to engage in meaningful discussions about policy and issues in 2016.
"I want them to walk away knowing that we are not each other's enemies," Carson said. "The real enemies are the people who are trying to divide us."