Neurosurgeon Ben Carson headed to his hometown of Detroit Friday to talk to students at his namesake high school, two days after the rising conservative star withdrew from speaking at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine commencement ceremony.
Carson, 61, appeared at Dr. Benjamin Carson High School for Science and Medicine, where he received an honorary diploma as the “first” graduate from the Detroit Public Schools emergency manager, Roy Roberts.
"He delivered a very positive message to the students and that's what we're focused on," Michelle Zdrodowski, spokeswoman for the Detroit Public Schools, told HuffPost.
Carson on Wednesday canceled his planned commencement speech at Johns Hopkins amid a student petition drive over his anti-gay remarks on Fox News. Carson compared gay rights to pedophilia and bestiality. Carson, a Johns Hopkins surgeon who attracted right-wing admirers after a speech attacking President Barack Obama's health care law earlier this year, later apologized for his anti-gay remarks.
Imani Rothschild, founder and chair of the Detroit Gay-Straight Alliance, told The Huffington Post that Carson's return to Detroit so soon after his incendiary comments sends a negative message.
"Anyone who is against equal rights for lesbians and gays is not a positive role model for young people," Rothschild said. Rothschild pointed out that anti-gay bullying is a prevalent issue in schools.
"I think that young people really listen to what adults say," Rothschild said, "so I don't think he should be invited to speak if he's making those kinds of comments to the media."
On Thursday, Carson spoke at the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in Detroit. The Detroit News reports he encouraged students to use education as a way to escape poverty.
"We want our young people to have that can-do attitude, not the what-can-you-do-for-me attitude," said Carson, who said he struggled in elementary school in Detroit before his single mother forced him to take his education seriously.
"If you take advantage of educational opportunities, there's no one who can keep you down," Carson said.
Carson warned of a "cultural war" to come in the United States between secular and Christian Americans, urging the audience not to give in to pressure to ignore their faith.
Carson gained notoriety as the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins in 1987. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008 by President George W. Bush, and has served as the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Carson has been touted as a hometown hero and was the subject of a 2009 TNT network movie about his life, "Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story," starring Cuba Gooding Jr.
The Detroit high school was named for Carson in 2011.