Van Jones To Congress: ‘We Can Build A Green Economy Dr. King Would Be Proud Of’

Out guest blogger is Center for American Progress senior fellow Van Jones, CEO of Green For All, who testified yesterday before the first hearing of the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. This is his testimony.

Mr. Chairman, other committee members, I’m just happy to be here and I appreciate the opportunity to talk. I was here in 2007 when the term “green collar job” was very rarely heard anywhere. This may have been the first place it was heard in Congress.

And now it is everywhere, and that reflects something. It reflects a hunger and desire on the part of the American people to solve the two biggest crises possibly ever to face this country: an economic catastrophe and a climate crisis, both of which could undermine our nation’s security, our economy, not just now but for decades into the future.

You, unlike the rest of us — next week, we’re going to be celebrating — you’ll celebrate for about ten minutes and then you’re going to go back to sweating. Sweating over the details of this recovery, sweating over the details of how it is that we can actually beat the recession and global warming at the same time.

The 111th Congress will be in the history books. A hundred years from now, students will study this Congress, and they will ask one question: “Were you able to solve the problem? Were you able to able to deal with this twin crisis? How did you do it?”

And you’re going to get a grade from our great-grandchildren: Yes or no. Pass or fail.

The reason that green jobs are so important is because they are the most secure way to ensure success for this Congress. And the whole country now is looking for a change. You have the opportunity now to turn this breakdown into a breakthrough. And you can if you honor three principles.

Number one: This is the chance for America finally to return to its roots as the most important economy in the world, not because we are the number one consumers, but because we are the number one producers.

Congressman Inslee pointed out that there is an opportunity to bring green manufacturing jobs back to this country, making batteries, making wind turbines, doing those things in the United States. Let us seize the opportunity to abandon the idea that we can forever be the most important economy in the world based on consumption, based on consumerism, based on credit cards. Let’s get back to building rather than borrowing in the United States. Number one.

Number two: As we honor Congressman Sensenbrenner’s plea for accountability — and I will underscore that. We don’t want to see any more wasted money. We can’t afford it. We don’t want to see any more of the Katrinas and those kinds of things. We can’t afford it.

But as we do that, let’s make sure we get our math right. This is a green economy we’re trying to build. And in a green economy the math is different. You don’t just count what you spend, you count what you save. This is a key point. When you are building a green economy you don’t just count what you spend, you count what you save.

And a massive investment, as the mayors are calling for, in energy efficiency will save us money over the long term. And that’s the importance of the energy efficiency and conservation block grant that the mayors have fought so valiantly for.

The third is simply this. We have an opportunity to do no generation of Americans has ever had the opportunity to do.

We can build a green economy Dr. King would be proud of. We have an opportunity to connect the people who most need work with the work that most needs to be done, and fight pollution and poverty at the same time, and be one country about it.

We have a chance to slow up for just a second, as Congressman Cleaver said. We might have to delay two weeks to help some of the young men and young women that you represent to get a little bit more training to get involved. We might have to wait three, we might have to hold up a month to get some of these young folks coming home from wars, coming home from prisons, coming out of high school — we might have to even wait an extra month to train them to be a part of this.

But if we do that, we will have built a green wave that will lift all boats. We will have created green pathways out of poverty. We will show a new generation of Americans that we can stand together we can do great things again, and that differences of color and class, starting points don’t matter, because we have a big future we are fighting for together.

You, as the leaders of the 111th congress on this most pressing issue, have the opportunity to make us the number one producer in the world; to change the math so we count what counts — we don’t just count what we have but what we save; and connect the people who most need work with the work that most needs to be done.

And if you do that, our great-great-grandchildren will give us an A plus.

Thank you very much.


The Seminal‘s Josh Nelson writes:

Anyone who wants to master the art of persuasion would be wise to study the great orators and communicators, folks like Lincoln, Kennedy, Churchill (and yes, Reagan). It is becoming increasingly clear that Van Jones deserves to be added to that list.

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,In contrast, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) argued last night on Newshour:

And, if you look at the over $500 billion worth of spending, a lot of it’s going to fix up federal buildings, and — and $6 billion to community action programs to do weatherization programs. It’s just more of the same kind of wasteful spending that we have seen in the past. I was really — I was shocked.

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