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Van Jones' Vision of Green Jobs Will Endure

Frances Beinecke

Posted September 9, 2009 in Green Enterprise, Solving Global Warming

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Van Jones has been hit by a nasty smear campaign designed to discredit him and his goal of creating millions of green jobs for Americans. The intensity of Glenn Beck's attacks shows once again the untold lengths the far right will go to hold on to the status quo.

Beck may be crowing about this so-called victory, but his stance on Van--and his resistance to the change he represents--puts Beck squarely on the wrong side of American progress.

You see Beck and his friends at Fox News are cheerleaders for 19th century energy sources--dirty coal and oil--that have run their course. Van represents a path that will turn America into the leader of the 21st century clean energy global marketplace.

Which one sounds like a communist to you? The dirty, polluting relic of the past or the beacon of future prosperity and growth?

Two years ago Van Jones came and spoke to NRDC, and every person in the room was moved by his green jobs vision. This was before Obama was president, before the stimulus package, and before the economy faltered. Back then, Jones was just a man from Oakland with a powerful plan for how America could become a leader in establishing a clean energy economy and, in the process, lift untold Americans out of poverty.

Since that first time I heard Van speak, his vision has taken hold. In the face of the financial crisis and the threat of global warming, Americans across a broad spectrum of backgrounds have embraced it. From Ivory Tower economists to Fortune 500 executives, from workers in struggling manufacturing cities like Cleveland and Gary to venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, people realize that investing in clean energy will jumpstart our shaky economy and generate jobs for struggling Americans.

The ideas Van so eloquently communicates have become mainstream today, and that is threatening to the far right and their friends at Fox News. They chose to tear down Van by piecing together random snippets and a few ill-advised statements.

But what I find ironic is that so much of what Van says embodies not radical talk but traditional American values.

He advocates for jobs that give people a path out of poverty--what some people call pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. He wants Americans of all colors and backgrounds to have equal access to good paying jobs--what some might say is giving people a fair shake. He wants to keep jobs in America, train Americans in the skills they need in the 21st century, and put America at the forefront of a global market.

To me that sounds like the American principles of hard work, innovation, self-reliance, and justice for all. Remarkably it sounds to Glenn Beck like the ideas of a "communist-anarchist radical."

Van may have left the White House, but I know his voice and his vision will continue to be a force in America. Indeed, he may become an even more potent advocate, reminding us what a green economic future can and should look like.  

In the spring, he inspired thousands of young people at the PowerShift 09 conference in Washington by laying out the challenge before us:

Greening this economy is not just a technological challenge or a political challenge or a legislative challenge or a business challenge. It is a moral challenge. And only your generation is diverse enough, loving enough, connected enough, determined enough to meet the true moral challenge that we face, which is this:

We have to create a green economy, that is true, but we have to create a green economy that Dr. King would be proud of. We have to create a green economy that includes everybody, that has a place for everyone. That is why we say Green for All.

That is the path to a better future for America. And while plenty of people like Glenn Beck will try to step in the way, I believe we can still get there.

 

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Comments

Cheryl Trooskin-ZollerSep 10 2009 05:59 PM

I join Ludovic Blain in asking that next time the Right tries to drum up racist agitation as a wedge issue, that we be prompt in our support and call out a racist smear campaign as such. (http://seminal.firedoglake.com/diary/7943)

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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