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Dr. Carson and Mrs. Irene share a common bond for helping youth.

On February 21st, I had the distinct privilege of meeting Dr. Ben Carson, the speaker for our 2013 banquet. For years his story has encouraged youth and adults alike to live up to their potential, never give up, and strive for excellence without excuses. In addition, he recently moved into mainstream media with his presidential prayer breakfast speech and appearance on Sean Hannity.

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I first met him – a man who is a genius in his field, prioritizes family, and has a list of accolades a mile long. I do know this, the man that I met far exceeded my expectations, but in a completely different way. He was an ordinary, down to earth person with a beat up brief case, old luggage, and a comfortable leather coat. He was humble, kind, and genuine. There wasn’t any clout or ego attached to this man. He simply was Ben Carson, a grown up kid from inner city Detroit. This made what he said and did during his stint in Greenville so much more meaningful to me, because it came from a truthful, unassuming man.

Dr. Carson took the time to come down to Building Hope and meet our kids. He spoke to them, shook their hands, and encouraged them to live their dreams. Then he turned around and spoke to an audience of 800 at our banquet, and inspired us to see things through a different lens.

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Dr. Carson took the time to speak to our students.

When I think about the speech, I can’t really pinpoint my favorite part. Was it the story about the North Carolina twins, joined at the chest, who worked to make not one but two successful farms in the 1860’s? Was it the story of his mother, who refused to let her circumstances negatively affect her family? Was it the idea of taking a child on a walking black history tour, pointing out the successes of people who came before him and challenging him to make an impact on the world?

In spite of the fact that I don’t have one favorite part of his speech, I was left with a lasting impression – one of hope and potential. We don’t have to go far to see people who have potential and just need hope. Who is going to give this hope to them? Will we turn the other cheek? Will we act like they don’t exist? Will we scoff and become irritated at people who are abusing the system or making bad decisions as if we’ve never made a mistake in our lives? Or will we roll up our sleeves and become part of the solution?

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The high school students were dressed to impress when they met Dr. Carson. After meeting him, they volunteered at the banquet as greeters.

If you haven’t had a chance, watch our video that tells the story of Jamarcus. It is inspiring, but it’s not the only great story to come out of Building Hope. Let your imagination run wild with the thought of what would happen if we all decided to step out of our comfort zone and make an impact in our city!