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Dr. Ben Carson to Testify About Growing Up in Poverty at HUD Confirmation Hearings

Dr. Ben Carson will testify at Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on his nomination to become Secretary of Housing and Urban Development that growing up poor in Detroit gave him a unique understanding of the job for which he is being considered.

“Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities. We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities,” President-elect Trump said in a statement released early Thursday morning by the Trump Transition Team about the man he has nominated to run Housing and Urban Development.

“Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up,” Trump said.

“Dr. Carson will be on the front lines of implementing President-elect Trump’s Plan for Urban Renewal,” the statement said, adding:

Dr. Carson knows first-hand what it is like growing up in impoverished, inner-city communities, and he will use that experience and perspective to better serve the American people by solving problems that have plagued HUD for decades.

President-elect Trump’s nomination of Dr. Ben Carson is another step in delivering on his promises to revitalize urban communities and to be a President for ALL Americans. His nomination shows that he believes America’s inner cities have promise—and he wants to put a leader in place who is known nationally and is a problem-solver…

Dr. Carson is a world-class problem solver, having refined his method to finding solutions in the high-stakes, high-stress field of neurosurgery. In his new task of creating stronger communities, Dr. Carson will continue to listen, examine and execute, just like he always has.

The Trump Transition Team also released the written statement for the record which Carson has provided the committee prior to today’s scheduled testimony.

In that statement, Carson thanked President-elect Trump for nominating him, and also thanked his wife, Candy, “to whom I have been married for the last 41 years, and who has been a pillar of strength for my family.”

Carson began the substance of the statement by noting the poverty in which he was raised:

I grew up in inner city Detroit with a single mother who had a 3rd grade education, but who worked numerous jobs to keep a roof over our heads and to put food on our table. I understand housing insecurity—we were forced to move from Detroit to Boston to live with relatives because she couldn’t afford our house. However, thanks to her diligence, were able to move back into that house in Detroit six years later.

My mother showed me the power of perseverance, the importance of hard work, and inspired me to always achieve excellence. While my mother was one of many children in her family and married at the very young age of 13, the fact that I am her son—nominated to be a cabinet secretary—shows that great opportunity can be available to those who grow up in a challenging environment. Thanks to her, I am here today. She pushed me to excel beyond my wildest dreams.

Carson noted that his mother’s influence “is why I started the Carson Scholars Fund, a scholarship program my wife Candy and I started to help promising young students go to college.”

“We’ve given 7,300 scholar awards since we founded the Carson Scholars Fund 20 years ago. We’ve also set up 160 reading rooms across America, mainly in Title I schools for low-income children, where, last year, those students logged 15 million minutes of independent reading,” Carson wrote.

“Our long-term goal is to nurture the entire school where these are located and allow students to develop the skills necessary to become lifetime readers and learners,” he added in the statement.

Carson addressed skeptics who claim he does not understand HUD’s mission.

“I see HUD as part of the solution, helping ensure housing security and strong communities,” he said in the statement.

But Carson added that doing things the same old way at HUD is not the approach he will take.

“We must revisit the ways we do things in order to give people an opportunity to climb the economic and social ladder,” he noted.

He also emphasized the importance of team work.

“In order to provide access to quality housing for the elderly, disabled, and low-income we need to work across silos,” he wrote:

As a physician, I am used to working on large surgical teams like I did to separate twins joined at the back of the head for the first time in history, and making detailed plans to develop creative ways to solve complex problems. I directed pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, as well as serving on the boards of two major American companies – Kellogg’s and Costco – so I understand the private sector and the importance of results and accountability.

“Throughout my life, I have done things that many deemed impossible,” Carson added in the statement.

“I pledge to work with this Committee and the dedicated career staff at HUD to solve difficult, seemingly obstinate issues and address the needs of those who rely on the services provided by HUD,” he said, indicating that he does not intend to come into the department with a wrecking ball, as some fair.

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will begin its hearings on Carson’s nomination at 10 a.m. eastern time on Thursday, and Carson is expected to testify and answer questions from the 23 members of the committee, 12 Republicans and 11 Democrats, throughout the day.

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