DETROIT (AP) - Retired surgeon Ben Carson declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination Monday, resting his longshot bid on his vision of the nation as "a place of dreams" where people can thrive when freed from an overbearing government.
Carson, the only African-American in the race, spoke in front of hundreds of people at Detroit Music Hall, a few miles from a high school that bears his name. A choir singing the chorus from Eminem's "Lose Yourself" set the stage.
He told supporters that he's not anti-government but believes Washington has exceeded its constitutional powers.
Ben Carson through the years
Famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson announces White House campaign
BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 12: (JAPAN OUT) (VIDEO CAPTURE) In this image from video Dr. Ben Carson talks about his life and education August 12, 2001 in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Carson was profiled for a CNN program called 'America's Best: Science and Medicine,' for his preeminence in the field of neurosurgery. (Photo by CNN via Getty Images)
Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks, Ben Carson, Ralph Abernathy and Levy Watkins at Johns Hopkins University during a celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr, Baltimore, Maryland, 1980. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)
Darius Rucker, Candy Carson and Dr. Ben Carson M.D., president and co-founder of Carson Scholars Fund (Photo by Louis Myrie/WireImage)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson is interviewed during a live streaming Web-A-Thon with Wake Up America September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson speaks as the keynote speaker at the Wake Up America gala Event September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 5: Dr. Ben Carson (C) chats with guests after a live streaming Web-A-Thon with Wake Up America September 5, 2014 at the Westin Kierland Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona. Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who would run in the 2016 Presidential campaign as a conservative for the Tea Party. (Photo by Laura Segall/Getty Images)
US conservative Ben Carson is surrounded by supporters as he waits to be interviewed at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington,DC on February 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD - FEBRUARY 26: Ben Carson, former neurosurgeon, addresses the 42nd annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) February 26, 2015 in National Harbor, Maryland. Carson is the author of 'One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save Americas Future' and 'America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great'. Conservative activists attended the annual political conference to discuss their agenda. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US conservative Ben Carson addresses the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, DC on February 26, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 08: Ben Carson attends the National Action Network (NAN) national convention at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel on April 8, 2015 in New York City. The network, founded by the Rev. Al Sharpton in 1991 is hosting various politicians, organizers and religious leaders to talk about the nation's most pressing issues. The conservative Carson is widely rumored to be considering a GOP presidential run in 2016. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - MAY 4: Republican Dr. Ben Carson, a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, speaks as he officially announces his candidacy for President of the United States at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts May 4, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. Carson was scheduled to travel today to Iowa, but changed his plans when his mother became critically ill. He now will be traveling to Dallas instead to be with his mother Sonya. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
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"It's time for people to rise up and take the government back," he said. "The political class won't like me saying things like that. The political class comes from both parties."
The former head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins hospital has never run for public office. But he's a star among some conservatives and will try to parlay his success as an author and speaker into a competitive campaign.
He told his rally: "I'm Ben Carson and I'm a candidate for president."
Carson was the second White House hopeful to get into the Republican race Monday. Former technology executive Carly Fiorina declared her intent to run earlier in the day.
Carson earned national acclaim during his 29 years leading the pediatric neurosurgery unit of Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, where he still lives. He directed the first surgery to separate twins connected at the back of the head. His career was notable enough to inspire the 2009 movie, "Gifted Hands," with actor Cuba Gooding Jr. depicting Carson.
"I see myself as a member of 'we the people,'" he told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this year, arguing that his lack of experience is an asset.
The 63-year-old Detroit native remains largely unknown outside of conservative activists who have embraced him since his address at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast, where he offered a withering critique of the modern welfare state and the nation's overall direction.
The speech restated themes from Carson's 2012 book "America the Beautiful," but he excited conservatives by doing so with President Barack Obama sitting just feet away.
Carson is a staunch social conservative, opposing abortion rights and same-sex marriage, views he attributes to his Christian faith.
He has more complex views on health care and foreign policy, including statements that could put him at odds with the most conservative branches of his party.
He has compared the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature legislative achievement, to slavery. Yet Carson also has blasted for-profit insurance companies; called for stricter regulations - including of prices - of health care services; and said government should offer a nationalized insurance program for catastrophic care.