By Tony E. Windsor

After almost 25 years, renowned Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon, Presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson, returned to the Seaford youth center that he helped to build. The visit was for an event to celebrate Dr. Carson’s 70th birthday.

The special birthday event was hosted at the Western Sussex County Boys & Girls Club on Virginia Avenue, Seaford, honoring both Dr. Carson and his wife, Lacena “Candy” Carson. The couple visited Sussex County recently to promote their conservative think tank project, the “American Cornerstone Institute.” The initiative is based on what Dr. Carson considers to be the four principles that have guided him through life and “have made this country great; faith, liberty, community and life.”

In a February opinion-editorial appearing in “RealClearPolitics,” Carson introduced ACI, saying that the initiative will be dedicated to creating dialogue and smart discourse. “ACI will focus on promoting and preserving individual and religious liberty, helping our country’s most vulnerable find new hope, and developing methods to maximize government’s efficiency and effectiveness to best serve all our nation’s citizens,” he wrote.

Retired Seaford School District educator and coach, John Hollis, a longtime friend of the Carson family, coordinated and emceed the birthday event at the Seaford B&G Club on Thursday, Sept. 30, and also a public event held the following evening at Crossroads Community Church in Georgetown.

Hollis also spearhead a capital campaign in the mid to late-1990s that resulted in raising the funds necessary to build the Seaford Boys & Girls Club. Along with bringing a variety of Nashville country music recording artists to Sussex County to help perform for fundraiser events, Hollis also invited Dr. Carson to headline a number of fundraising events. Carson was also instrumental in contributing his time to sold-out appearances during the annual winter “Festival for Youth” events that attracted national, education, literary and sports personalities as part of the capital project.

Hollis is also founder of the local minority-focused, college prep and STEM-based program, “MERIT” (Minority Engineering Regional Incentive Training), now in its 47th year in Sussex County. He was successful in gaining Dr. Carson’s support for the program as a motivational speaker and fundraiser. As teens, Carson’s three sons, Rhoeyce, Benjamin Jr., and Murray, also participated in MERIT’s three-week summer program.

During the birthday event, Hollis invited local dignitaries to share messages highlighting each of the four principles of Carson’s ACI. Speaking on the cornerstone of “Faith,” was President/General Manager of the local contemporary Christian radio station, The Bridge, Bill Sammons, Jr.

Sammons lauded Dr. Carson for the faith he has demonstrated throughout his life and many careers. “As we celebrate Dr. Carson’s first 70 years of life, we not only pause to thank the Lord for his works, but also for his faith.”

State Sen. David Lawson, of Dover, a former Milford Police Officer and retired Delaware State Trooper, addressed the “Liberty” cornerstone saying that the men and women who have served in the military along with their families know the cost of liberty. He said he fears in recent years that the nation may be losing its sense of liberty. “Few people do not realize just how many liberties we have; it is unmeasurable,” he said. “But, it is quickly being taken from us and we are allowing it. We must stand up as ‘we the people’ and say ‘no.’ Those of us that are elected to public office work for you, not the other way around. This is how you exercise the liberty that has been paid for by our brave servicemen and women over the years.”            

Seaford Mayor David Genshaw, spoke on the cornerstone of “Community.” He said that Seaford is community that cannot afford to be divided by political partisanship. “The elected representatives that serve on our council are not R’s and D’s,” Genshaw said referring to the Republican and Democrat party affiliations. “We are elected officials who represent our entire community. We’re not in a place where we can be divided like that. We have to work together for the greater good of our community. We’re fortunate that way. We can’t do anything unless we do it together.”

State Sen. Bryant L. Richardson of Seaford, addressed the final ACI cornerstone, “Life.” He took the opportunity to share what has become a primary focus of his work as an elected official; his pro-life position, especially as it pertains to the unborn child. “The reason I serve the people of Delaware is because of my desire to see something done on the issue of life, especially the protection of the unborn,” he said. “We’ve lost 63 million of our citizens since 1973. This has got to stop.”

Richardson mentioned the recent passing of stricter abortion laws in the state of Texas, but says he believes this is still not enough. “The state of Texas has recently enacted a ‘heartbeat’ law that protects the unborn as early as six weeks; but we know that life actually starts at conception,” he said.

Taking the stage to extraordinarily enthusiastic applause, Dr. Carson took time to express how “delighted” he and his wife were to be back in Delaware. He also lauded Hollis and the others who championed the “dream to build the Boys & Girls Club in Seaford” for their “commitment and tenacity” for the project.

He said merging the Boys & Girls Club and the MERIT program provided a special opportunity for many local youth. “I remember these young students who all of a sudden had a chance; all of a sudden had hope where it did not exist before. That is so incredibly important,” he said.

Sharing a brief overview of his transition from Chief of Child Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital into the political arena, Carson said this was not part of his plans following retirement. “I planned my retirement,” he said. “I was told that neurosurgeons die young. So, I listed the ages of the last 10 neurosurgeons that I knew who had died and calculated the average age as 61 years old. So, I determined that if I lived until then, I would retire at 61. Interestingly enough, I did live to be 61 and I retired. However, it did not last long. I failed at retirement.”

It was his keynote address at the 2013 “National Prayer Breakfast,” that led to a ground swell of national support for Carson as a Presidential candidate in the 2016 elections. While people were urging him to run for President at the venues of his many speaking engagements across the country, Carson said he did not take it seriously. However, once receiving a petition signed by more than 500,000 people, pleading for him to ‘”Run, Ben Run,” and raising more money each month than the Republican National Committee (RNC) he began to take it more seriously.”

While considered a “front runner” throughout early candidate polling, Carson eventually dropped out of the Republican Presidential Primary race after Super Tuesday and endorsed Donald Trump for the nomination. He went on to be chosen by then-President Trump to be Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson expressed his concerns about “the crazy stuff they are teaching in our schools,” referring to the issue of Critical Race Theory. He said that he and wife Candy are writing a new book, “Created Equal,” which he calls “a pushback on Critical Race Theory to show what is really going on in our country.”

“These people try to make it seem like because we had slavery we are the most evil country in the world,” he said. “The truth is slavery has been in existence since mankind has had societies. There are more slaves in the world right now than there have ever been. There are more in this country right now than there were in 1863 when the Emancipation Proclamation was put forth. These are sexual slaves, victims of human trafficking and it’s rampant. We need to be just as concerned about that as we are about things in the past.”

He said those supporting CRT try to characterize the United States as “unique” as it applies to the issue of slavery. “The only thing unique about this country is that we had so many people that were vehemently opposed to slavery that we were willing to fight a civil war and lose a large portion of our population to stop it. This is what we should be teaching our young people,” he said.

He said that as Dr. Martin Luther King referred to in his “I Have a Dream” speech, people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. “They would have us believe that all white people are evil because their ancestors had slaves and all black people are victims and have the odds stacked against them. What if as a young man I had believed that?” he asked.

Carson said ACI will promote the value of self-sufficiency and the idea of creating equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Providing individuals with opportunities to transform and improve their lives leads to better outcomes than subsidies and welfare programs.