President Donald Trump’s Cabinet is just about complete, and nearly all of the high-level officials, from Jeff Sessions to Rick Perry, are similar in their wealth, background and race — rich and white.
On Thursday, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson broke the mold with his swearing-in as Housing and Urban Development secretary, officially becoming the only African-American in Trump’s Cabinet.
The former GOP presidential candidate was confirmed by a 58-41 vote, leaving just four of Trump’s 22 Cabinet-level nominees still unsworn.
“Right now, our country is the patient,” Carson said at his swearing in as his wife, Candy, and granddaughter Tesora held the Bible. “And, it’s not a Democrat or a Republican patient. … It’s an American patient. We have a duty to use the gifts that God has given all of us in order to heal that patient.”
Carson, 65, was born into an impoverished Detroit family but became a world-renowned neurosurgeon who made an ultimately unsuccessful bid of his own for president last year.
In January, he vowed to begin his job at HUD by going on a listening tour before developing any long-term plans for the department which has more than 8,000 employees and a $50 billion budget.
In February, during Black History Month, Carson joined Trump for a tour of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., where the president said Carson would work very closely with him.
“HUD has a meaning far beyond housing,” Trump said. “If properly done, it’s a meaning that’s as big as anything there is.”
Carson, whose mother at times received food stamps to provide for her family, grew up surrounded by some of the housing assistance programs he will now oversee.
Yet, the New York Times reported, rather than embrace the programs that once sustained his family and the families around him, Carson adopted standard Republican beliefs that too much government help — both in desegregating neighborhoods and in lifting people from poverty — can discourage people from working hard.
Carson was awarded a scholarship to Yale University, and at 33, he was named director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. He later became an author and a philanthropist, supporting scholarships for young, often impoverished students.
After his medical career, Carson turned to politics and competed with Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.
“Housing discrimination continues to be a significant problem in this country, unfairly limiting people’s choices about where to live,” Lisa Rice, executive vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance, said in a statement. “We look to Secretary Carson to marshal the resources of the department he leads to combat this problem, and to fight all forms of housing discrimination,” Rice said.