Excerpted from America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great © 2012 by Dr. Benjamin Carson. Excertped by permission of Zondervan Publishers, a Division of Harper Collins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
America's History of Rebelling for Change
Of all the nations in the world, of all the social experiments that have been tried down through the centuries, there is no country I'd rather be a citizen of and call home than America. Where else but in this land of opportunity are people given so much freedom to pursue their dreams, with the potential to bring out the best in everyone?
I have been fortunate enough to visit forty-nine of America's fifty states, and I never cease to be amazed by the tremendous diversity one finds here—from big metropolitan cities to small countryside towns, from tropical islands to forested mountain ranges. Vast expanses of farmland produce more than enough food to feed our nation, and huge industrial areas produce airplanes, trains, cars, washing machines, and a host of other devices. The creative innovations of Silicon Valley and Seattle give us technological strength, and the great Northeastern corner of our country boasts some of the most prestigious educational institutions in the world. Add to that our ethnic and cultural diversity—one of our greatest strengths—and you begin to see how this nation's diversity enabled it to rapidly become a world power.
Does America have its flaws? Absolutely. We've certainly made our share of mistakes over the centuries and then some. But in spite of our missteps, our nation's history shows that out of our darkest periods, we have responded time and time again to work toward "liberty and justice for all." One of America's most respected legacies is indeed that of rebelling for change.
I grew up in inner-city Detroit and Boston at the tail end of one of those dark periods in America's history. Slavery had long been abolished, but widespread racism remained. The civil rights movement was on the verge of completely transforming the social landscape, but such change often comes slowly. And today, decades later, I can still pinpoint the moment when I came of age regarding racism in America.
My brother and I were playing in Franklin Park in the Roxbury section of Boston when I wandered away alone under a bridge, where a group of older white boys approached me and began calling me names.
"Hey, boy, we don't allow your kind over here," one of them said. He looked at the others. "Let's drown him in the lake." I could tell they weren't just taunting me, trying to scare me. They were serious, and I turned and ran from there faster than I had ever run before in my life. It was a shocking introduction for a little boy to the racism that ran through America at the time.
Growing up, we faced constant reminders of how we were less important than white people. Even some of those who claimed to be civil rights activists could be heard saying such things as, "He is so well educated and expresses himself so clearly that if you were talking to him on the telephone you would think he was white."