President Obama delivered his farewell address to the nation, the last major speech of his historic presidency this week in his adopted home of Chicago in front of more than 18,000 rapturous supporters. Towards the end of his speech, emotion illuminated his famously placid countenance and the President shed a tear as he thanked his wife and his daughters.
We witnessed a decidedly different emotion from Obama as he sat listening to the comments of the keynote speaker for the 61st National Prayer Breakfast, famed neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson on Feb. 7, 2013. Perhaps ironically, First Lady Michelle Obama sat to President Obama’s right and Alabama Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, the current nominee to be the next Attorney General of the United States, sat to the President’s left as Carson delivered his meandering 27 minute speech.
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
Carson’s address alternately plugged a book he had recently written with his wife, touted the virtues of his, “Carson Scholars Fund,” and warned against the evils of political correctness. But, when Carson took veiled swipes at Obama and unambiguous shots at the main plank of his presidential legacy, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, it seemed like the President was on the verge of shattering the enduring narrative of, “no drama Obama.” That speech catapulted Carson into the stratosphere of the conservative right, yet began the precipitous descent of his image in the minds of many others, particularly in the Black community that once saw him as a hero.
Now Carson, the failed presidential candidate will begin his Senate confirmation hearings on Jan. 12 to become Donald Trump’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, a post his detractors argue he is woefully unqualified to occupy. In fact, perhaps his most loyal supporter, longtime adviser Armstrong Williams made the announcement in the wake of Trump’s victory, Carson lacked the necessary qualifications and background to run a government agency (yet, he was somehow qualified to be President of the United States?).
Nevertheless, Carson at Trump’s beckoning (it was Trump who likened Carson to a pedophile on the campaign trail), comes forward to attempt to convince us he is prepared to run one of the most complex and vast U.S. government agencies of them all.
“The Trump administration appointing Dr. Ben Carson as the secretary of HUD, is a slap in the face of urban America and particularly a slap in the face of African Americans,” said Rev. Alvin Hathaway of venerable Union Baptist Church in West Baltimore. Hathaway has worked with HUD secretaries from the Reagan administration to the Obama White House, seeking funds and resources for some of Baltimore’s poorest communities for decades. Baltimore receives 10’s of millions of dollars annually from HUD to fund a litany of affordable housing and public housing programs.
“His (Carson’s) learning curve is going to be insurmountable…When you think about, “HOME” dollars (HOME is HUD’s Home Investment Partnerships through its Community Planning and Development programs), money that comes to the cities to help underwrite affordable housing. If you don’t understand the nuances of that, how would you then be able to protect that in your budget when there are requests to cut the budgets of your agencies,?” Hathaway added.
“I’m a faith man so I always lean to there is some greater good, even in the worst situations. But, I’m hard pressed to find greater good in the appointment of Dr. Ben Carson as the secretary of HUD.”
Months after Carson’s address to the Prayer Breakfast, Carson spoke to the Values Voter Summit in Washington in Oct. 2013, where he said, “You know Obamacare is really, I think. the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” Carson said. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about healthcare. It was about control,” he added.
There is a general consensus by American historians that argues, `in order to understand the history of the United States you have to understand the history of the Civil War.’ But, to understand the history of the Civil War you have to understand the history of American slavery. It seems clear Carson is wildly ignorant of the history of American slavery, because only the most obtuse individual would liken it to the implementation of healthcare coverage for millions of Americans. U.S. Senators will question Carson’s capacity to run HUD next week. But, perhaps the most perplexing question is, how can a Black American man born into poverty in Detroit craft a worldview, which concludes, “Obamacare…is slavery?”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of AFRO First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday 5-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.