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'Not an ideal time to be conservative': Ben Carson speaks on UNC Campus

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Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson speaks at the Great Hall in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2023. Carson was hosted by Turning Point USA and UNC College Republicans in an event titled "From Surgeon to Statesman.”

On Thursday, students lined up outside the Carolina Union to hear a speech by Ben Carson — a former neurosurgeon who ran for president on the Republican ticket in 2016 and served as the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 2017 to 2021.

Turning Point USA partnered with the American Cornerstone Institute to host the event at 7 p.m. in the Great Hall, which garnered around 300 attendees.

Richard Mills, the strategic director of TPUSA's college program said the organization's field representative reached out to chapters to ask who would be interested in hosting Carson. Matthew Trott, UNC TPUSA president took the offer. 

Some students, like junior Andrew Sun, attended to hear perspectives outside their own. 

"I care about going to events where the speakers say things that I disagree with," he said. "Having a chance to hear a conversation like that, just to kind of see what’s said."

During his speech, Carson spoke about a variety of issues ranging from his stance on liberalism to Christian faith in the United States. 

"This country will allow a man to go from dire poverty to pretty much anywhere he wants to go, and it’s not like that in a lot of places," he said. "That’s something to be very proud of. But liberalism is really a disease that has seized our country." 

Carson said this is "not an ideal time to be conservative" on college campuses. He said conservative students are being "silenced" in their classrooms and that it is important for them to stand up for what they believe in.

"I think our country can be saved," he said. "We’re different. This is America."

To end his speech, Carson told a story about Benjamin Franklin. Franklin, he said, called for a prayer during the chaotic process of drafting the Constitution and asked the assembly to kneel and seek wisdom from God.

Following his speech, Carson answered questions from the audience about his controversial beliefs on LGBTQ+ issues and abortion, his past presidential campaign and his experience in the medical field. 

Computer science major Win Geigerman said while the talk was valuable in listening to perspectives of other ideologies, Carson’s response to his question about transgender people was "certainly disappointing." 

"I have a lot of very close friends who are transgender, and I thought I would get his perspective on that," Geigerman said. "When he said that it originated in the '90s with the communists as a way of trying to market sexual perversion to the United States, I feel like a lot of my friends would probably be disheartened by hearing that response.”

Shiva Rajbhandari, a student and organizer for the Sunrise Movement at UNC, said he came to the event to question Carson about whether his beliefs were influenced by the fact that his presidential campaign took over $86,000 from the fossil fuel industry.

Rajbhandari said he objected to Carson and TPUSA’s premise that UNC taught left-biased information to students. 

"Dr. Carson says that our professors are lying to us, that our teachers aren’t telling the truth," he said. "He says that public servants can’t be trusted when he himself refutes common-consensus science on the reality of the climate crisis."

Despite mixed student opinions on Carson's politics, Trott said he thought the event was a great success with a large number of attendees. 

"I think this was really good, and we had a really great turnout. I’m very happy with how it went," he said.

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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