Carson begins presidential bid: 'Take govt. back'

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau


Detroit — Dr. Ben Carson launched his bid for the Republican nomination for president Monday before a hometown crowd, vowing to shrink the size and scope of government.

"I think it's time for the people to rise up and take the government back," Carson told a cheering crowd at the Music Hall Center for Performing Arts in downtown Detroit.

The famed neurosurgeon and Detroit native is seeking the Republican nomination for president, becoming the only African-American candidate from either major party in the field.

Carson, who gained national political notoriety in 2013 for criticizing President Barack Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast, used his first day as a candidate to call for a "tax holiday" for corporations and wealthy Americans storing their profits in bank accounts overseas.

"We are going to change the government into something that looks more like a well-run business," he said.

Carson, who grew up in poverty on Detroit's southwest side, used his first major speech as a candidate for president to rebut claims from critics that he wants to throw people off of welfare. He called that a "blatant lie."

"I have no desire to get rid of the safety net for people who need them," Carson said. "(But) I have a strong desire to get rid of programs that create dependency for able-bodied people."

Carson supporters from across Michigan and the country traveled to Detroit to pack the historic theater on Madison Street.

"He expresses my conservative views in a calm manner," said Joe Shay, of Central Lake, Mich., in Antrim County. "I'm tired of being yelled at by career politicians — Republicans and Democrats."

Wayne Newman, 75, of Northville, said he's been hoping Carson would run for president for two years.

"He's got common sense. He's a problem solver," Newman said. "And he's got the love of Christ in him."

Carson said he would be a blunt voice in what promises to be a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates.

"I gotta tell you something: I'm not politically correct, and I'm probably never going to be politically correct because I'm not a politician. I don't want to be a politician," said Carson, who has been prone to gaffes in the past.

Earlier Monday morning, Carson kicked off his presidential campaign launch in Detroit with a half-hour breakfast speech to supporters that touched on everything from the recent riots in Baltimore to brain surgery and creationism.

During the appearance at Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Carson showed that he won't be a stereotypical politician on the stump.

Carson, a devout Christian raised Seventh-day Adventist on Detroit's southwest side, signaled he won't shy away from speaking about his faith on the campaign trail.

"We have to get back to the point where we are not ashamed of being people of faith," Carson said as people in the audience shouted "Amen" and applauded him. "It doesn't mean that we force our beliefs on anybody else. But no one should be able to curtail what we say and what we do and how we believe."

"That's going to be up to us to have the courage to stand up to the secular progressives who want to drive God out of everything and as they do so, our country is going down in a tailspin at a rapid speed. We need to bring the values and the principles back again."

Carson's message resonated with Tim Berends, a Christian radio talk show host in Las Vegas who flew to Detroit to hear the retired Johns Hopkins Hospital pediatric neurosurgeon speak.

Berends thanked Carson for publicly stating his belief in creationism.

"I appreciate that," Berends said while shaking hands with Carson. "When he stands up for the Bible, when he stands up for creationism, he's going to offend a lot of people. I think that's what people appreciate about Ben Carson."

During his half-hour of remarks, Carson commented on the age-old debate between Christians and scientists over how the Earth was formed.

"They also can't explain to me how something came from nothing," Carson said of scientists. "... What they believe requires a great deal of faith, probably more faith than believing in God."

Early Monday morning, Carson canceled a campaign trip to Iowa so he can fly to Dallas and be with his "critically ill" mother after a morning of events in Detroit.

Carson's campaign issued an advisory saying Carson's mother, Sonya Carson, "has been in failing health" and "is now critically ill."

In speeches, Carson routinely talks about lessons learned from his single mother growing up poor in Detroit.

Carson had planned to travel to the Hawkeye State Monday afternoon after making his presidential announcement in Detroit.

Carson also made an 8:30 a.m. visit at the Detroit public school that bears his name — the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine. It is a four-year-old school off Mack Avenue where Carson found a receptive audience.

Among them was 15-year-old sophomore David Whiteside, who said he was genuinely excited about the opportunity to see Carson in person.

"We're about to meet the man our school is named after," Whiteside said as students filed into the assembly area. "That's always good. I've read his book and I've seen the movie."

Whiteside hopes to indulge his interest in engineering and alternative energy by moving on to college — possibly the University of Michigan. And the morning gathering was filled with plenty of young people with seemingly bright futures.

For many of them, Carson's life is the blueprint for what they hope to achieve. The surgeon held forth with stories and advice that hammered home the message of learning from mistakes.

His first set of comprehensive medical efforts produced poor results, as well as a recommendation from an adviser that he abandon his designs on medical school.

"People are always going to tell you what you can't do," Carson said. "But you don't have to accept that."

Carson supporters from across the country began arriving in Detroit on Sunday evening, many staying overnight at the Hilton Garden downtown next to the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts.

"We've never seen him in person," said Davidia Seevers, who drove to Detroit from Toledo with her husband, Stan, to hear Carson speak.

clivengood@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3660

Twitter.com/ChadLivengood