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Southwest Detroit's own Ben Carson, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary, visits Benjamin Carson High School and speaks with parents and kids.

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U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said Wednesday he envisions Detroit being the prosperous city it once was.

“We’ve taken such a beating reputationally over the last few decades,” Carson said. “There was a time when Detroit was one of the most prosperous cities in America. I don’t see why we can’t get back there quite frankly with the right leadership.”

Carson made his comments Wednesday before an audience of parents and students at Benjamin Carson High School in Detroit, as part of the launch of a national listening tour. The HUD secretary is in his hometown for a three-day visit in which he’s expected to hear from those who support or rely on public housing. In attendance was Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who was acknowledged by Carson.

“I’m delighted talking with Mayor Duggan to see how he has been able to leverage the funds that came from the government with the private sector,” Carson said. “There are a lot of people in the private sector who have good hearts. They have big wallets, but good hearts. They are absolutely willing to get involved in programs that will help to elevate people, rather than just maintain people. To me that is what America is about – the land of opportunity where people can grow and magnify their talents.”

Carson said that when he thinks about the problems the country faces regarding affordable housing, he looks at what was previously done.

“Not all of them work, but some of them did,” he said. “They are all steppingstones that will allow us to go the next stage. And I believe if we all learn how to work together we will be able to accomplish enormous things. I think Detroit is going to be one of the crown jewels of this nation.”

Following his 20-minute address, Carson took questions from three students; he took no questions from the news media. One student asked how he plans to improve existing government housing.

“It’s going to be a matter of recognizing the big picture,” Carson said. “That’s going to be the key. Not doing a little bit here, a little patchwork here. That means working across silos. That means HUD working with the Department of Labor, working with the Department of Education, Department of Justice, Department of Transportation, the EPA and developing overall programs that develop our people. We must develop all of our people. ...We need to start thinking as a unit how do we magnify our strengths.”

Duggan said that he hopes Carson’s visit this week will show him that the city is on the right path when it comes to affordable housing. He said he hopes to utilize Carson’s existing tie with the high school named after him in 2011.

“We’re going to see if we can’t build upon the relationship with Ben Carson to keep affordable housing programs going,” Duggan said.

Duggan said he plans to take Carson to a neighborhood Friday to show him a project.

“We have a lot people moving into the city,” Duggan said. “We want to make sure that people moving in don’t push out those who have been here and the affordable housing initiative is a big part of making sure Detroiters are protected in their homes. We want Secretary Carson to see that for himself and hopefully see the importance of the initiative.”

Among those in attendance Wednesday was 17-year-old Jarel Mills, a senior at Carson High School. He had the opportunity to ask Carson a question.

“I was very excited that I was called on,” he said. “I had felt that I had won the lottery. Since I’ve started attending this school, Ben Carson has been a big role model of mine. I definitely will be keeping up with what he’s doing.”

cwilliams@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2311

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