20161008-bc-carson

Dr. Ben Carson, former GOP presidential nomination contender, speaks at the Bakersfield Business Conference Saturday.

Felix Adamo/The Californian

Dr. Ben Carson, the only Republican during the primary season to offer a true challenge to Donald Trump, said nothing about the controversy crippling his former rival during his address at the Bakersfield Business Conference.

Carson’s theme was uplift — peppered by a few partisan zingers — and the crowd responded with warmth. The surprise from Carson was that he comes off funnier, and livelier, in person than he did on television running the political meat grinder that doubled as the Republican primaries.

Carson retold the story of his rise from poverty as a child to the heights of his profession and onto the national stage.

“They accused me of being a hypocrite. ‘You grew up poor; you must have received benefits,’” he quoted his critics as saying.

“That’s a total bunch of crap,” he said, firing up the crowd. “They lie. They lie to demonize people.”

Carson took on what he calls the threat to Judeo-Christian values in the country and what he sees as the rise of Socialism.

“They think Socialism is following social media,” he said, dismissing perhaps legions of millennials who lined up behind Bernie Sanders, though he never mentioned the senator by name.

Carson closed by recounting a surgery in Africa in 1998, when he was asked to separate twins joined at the head. He said he prayed and requested that inspirational music be played during the operation.

“I went back in there with a prayer on my lips: ‘Lord, it’s up to you.’ When I made the final cut, the ‘Hallelujah’ chorus came over the stereo system.”

Carson walked away, he said, with an epiphany: Use the talent “God has given you to elevate other people.”

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