'When I was growing up in Detroit, there were people talking about, 'this person's being unfair, that's unfair, this is against me.' But you know what? Nobody stopped me from going into Wayne State University's library and taking advantage of all kinds of programs," says Dr. Ben Carson, ruing Detroit's culture of victimization. "(We must) empower people to take advantage of the multiple opportunities that exist."
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You can take Ben Carson out of Detroit, but you can't take Detroit out of Dr. Ben Carson.
The renowned neurosurgeon's humble beginnings in Motown are never far from his thoughts. As his hometown gains an emergency manager to fix its fiscal crisis, Carson warns of the larger cultural crises that threaten Detroit's children.
His plain-spoken style, coupled with high-profile political speeches at the National Prayer Breakfast and the Conservative Political Action Conference, proposing detailed tax and health reforms, have electrified Republicans who see him as a potential candidate -- perhaps a Michigan Senate nominee in 2014 -- when he retires from Johns Hopkins in June.
But what has made Carson a hero to opinion leaders like Juan Williams and Allen West is his courage -- shared by Bill Cosby and Clarence Thomas -- to speak honestly about inner cities' most vexing problem: Family implosion.
Raised by a single mother, Carson says his family situation was the exception to the rule in the 1950s. Today, absent fathers are an epidemic -- 80 percent of Detroit children are raised in single-parent homes -- at the center of Detroit's pathologies: Child poverty, low high school graduation rates, 49 percent adult illiteracy, sky-high crime rates.
"It wasn't anywhere near that intense in the inner cities back during the time when you had intact families," Carson says of his childhood. "It didn't have so much to do with the economic status as it did with whether or not you had that intact nuclear family. When you don't have that, you're like a ship out to sea without a rudder."
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