In “Ben Carson’s Bully Pulpit” [Style, Aug. 29], Ben Carson held up his life as an example of what can be achieved through personal commitment, drive and self-reliance. Divisive politics seems out of character for a person who, for more than two decades, has been an inspiration to us and our children. His message of self-reliance and hard work is muddled by the notion that government efforts to help the less fortunate lure them into permanent dependence. Mr. Carson seems strangely blind to the forces that keep them down.

While we strive for social justice and equality, the United States frequently falls short. It took a terrible civil war to end slavery; the Jim Crow laws that followed were almost equally as inhuman and abhorrent. Several generations of civil rights struggles have led us to the still-unrealized goal of equality.

Had Mr. Carson been born 20 years earlier, societal forces would have made his professional success unlikely. Had he been born 100 years earlier, it would have been illegal in many states for him even to receive an education. Mr. Carson’s personal triumph is remarkable, but it owes to those individuals who saw injustice and used the power of the state to correct it. Without those generations putting their lives on the line, Mr. Carson may very well have been just another brilliant mind tossed on the trash heap as so many others in earlier generations were.

Ernest Daddio, Columbia