Anybody in America can be successful, provided they work hard, according to Dr. Ben Carson.
“Recognize that the American Dream is alive and well,” Carson, who founded the American Cornerstone Institute after serving in the Cabinet during the Trump administration, said on EpochTV’s “American Thought Leaders” program. The full episode will premiere on Sat. Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. ET.
Carson, who grew up poor in Detroit, said he acknowledges the wealth gap that exists between blacks and whites but noted that when you zero in on Ghanaians and Nigerians that come to this country, the wealth gap vanishes.
“Now, if you know families from those places, what you know is that there’s a tremendous emphasis on family and education. And they’ve eliminated the wealth gap. So I wonder if perhaps, there is something that we should glean from that,” he said.
“Recognize that the American Dream is alive and well. But you’re not entitled to it. You have to work for it. And that was what people wanted, they wanted to come. They said, ‘I don’t care that I have to work hard, as long as I get to benefit from that hard work and somebody else doesn’t come along and say well, I’m taking your stuff. because you don’t really deserve it.'”
Carson himself lived in a tenement in Boston for several years after his mother and father separated when she found out he had another family. After returning to Detroit, his mother got a job as a house cleaner, and saw how the families whose homes she cleaned prioritized reading over watching television. She passed on that ethic to her children.
“She came home and imposed that on me and my brother. We were not happy at all,” Carson recalled. He was in fifth grade at the time.
The boys were ordered to take out two books a week from the public library and submit reports on them to their mother. Slowly, they began to enjoy reading.
“Even though I didn’t like it very much at first, after a while, I got to the point where I couldn’t wait to get home to get into my books, because it opened up a whole new world,” Carson said. You know, we lived with rats and roaches and poverty. But as soon as I open the covers of those books, I was transformed to another place.
“I started reading about scientists and surgeons and explorers and entrepreneurs. And I very rapidly came to an understanding as my brother did, that you are the person who is going to decide where you’re going to go. Nobody else got to decide that. Even though there were a lot of people around us who were constantly telling us that ‘the world was unfair, that you wouldn’t be able to succeed; why do you have these lofty dreams?’ But we forgot about all that,” Carson said.
Carson began applying himself in school, shooting to the top of the class. He won a special award for the highest-achieving student in eighth grade.
One moment in school stands out to him all these years later. His science teacher walked into the classroom and held out a big, black, shiny rock. He asked students what it was. It was obsidian. Carson knew, and answered correctly.
“I was the most amazed person because it dawned on me that the reason I knew the answer, and nobody else did is because I was reading the books,” Carson said.
“From that point on, you never saw me without a book,” he added.
Carson later became a renowned surgeon, leading a team that separated conjoined twins in 1987. He retired in 2013 and ran in the 2016 presidential race. After Donald Trump won, he asked Carson to be his secretary of Housing and Urban Developing. Carson accepted.
After the Trump administration ended, Carson went on to found the American Cornerstone Institute, which says it was created to “champion conservative solutions to the real problems our nation faces.”
Part of the group’s focus is on education. Carson sees many problems with the U.S. educational system.
“In Baltimore city, the graduation rate, obviously, is very low. But the number of students who are working at grade level is almost zero. And in so many of our large cities, that seems to be the case,” Carson said.
One way to fix the situation, according to Carson, is school choice, which enables students to go to the school of their choice.
“We really need school choice, in a big way, and we need to make it possible for the money to follow the children so that they can get a good education. Because it doesn’t matter what background you come from in this country, if you get a good education, you write your own ticket,” Carson said.