The black man courting crowds of white conservatives doesn’t seem like the same guy that H. Westley Phillips once idolized. Phillips still relishes the day he heard Ben Carson inspire minority students at Yale University with his story of persistence. He can still feel the nervous anticipation he had while waiting in line to shake Carson’s hand.
After the speech, Phillips followed Carson’s path and began to study neurosurgery.
“I had come from a public school in Tulsa and came from a single-parent household and thought I was the admissions mistake,” said Phillips, now 27. “But he gave me the comfort to know that if I did struggle — and I thought I would — that I wouldn’t have been the first, and there are ways to handle it. The message he gave was this backup artillery when times were hard.”
For many young African Americans who grew up seeing Carson as the embodiment of black achievement — a poor inner-city boy who became one of the world’s most accomplished neurosurgeons — his emergence as a conservative hero and unabashed critic of the United States’ first black president has been jarring.