White House green jobs advisor Van Jones is under attack from Fox News as an “avowed radical revolutionary communist” and from ABC News as a “truther” with a “history of incendiary and provocative remarks.” In an attempt to assassinate the character of Van Jones, the right-wing media are distorting his past political activism and cherry-picking Jones’s critiques of the pollution and injustice that still haunt this nation. However, Jones’s true record is one of turning away from anger and finding hope, abandoning division and seeking consensus.
Speaking at the National Clean Energy Summit 2.0 in Las Vegas this August, Van Jones argued that “for all of the battleground politics that’s going on,” energy policy should be “the one place that should be a safe harbor for all of us.” Van Jones praised the “bipartisanship” of Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, who as a representative from Los Angeles succeeded in getting “the first president ever to sign into law a green jobs act, President George W. Bush.” He recognized that the summit participants came to find a “healing for our politics” in a “common ground agenda”:
Many of you have taken chances to start companies, you’ve written books, you’ve been grassroots champions for the change that we need. And I think you’re seeking not just a healing for our economy or a healing for our planet, but a healing for our politics. And I want to acknowledge that many of us are here because we are seeking something deeper. This is the common ground agenda. It should be the common ground agenda. We should be able to come together as a country on this one. Finally.
Jones then explained that “the values that underlie this clean energy conversation” are “the common ground values of America.” Underlying the call for clean energy is the value that “clean air is better than dirty air for the health of our children.” Underlying the call for energy efficiency is that value that treating our country’s resources “with wisdom and respect is more important than wasting them.” And “if we have the opportunity to fight both poverty and pollution by putting people to work in these new industries, we would be wise as a country to do that.”
To extended applause, Van Jones explained that the Obama administration has committed $5 billion to improving the energy efficiency of low-income households because the same investment “that cut unemployment and cut an energy bill and cuts greenhouse gases is also going to cut asthma, and take asthma inhalers out of little girls’ and boys’ pockets.”
Jones discussed in further detail how President Obama’s clean energy agenda tears down traditional ideological divides by “asking questions progressives like” but “giving answers that conservatives should like”:
We’re asking questions progressives like but we’re giving answers that conservatives should like. We’re asking questions about how to move the needle on poverty and pollution and how we create more economic opportunity especially for people in the lower part of our economy. But the answers are answers that conservatives should like. We’re not talking about expanding welfare, we’re talking about expanding work. We’re not talking about expanding entitlements, we’re talking about expanding enterprise and investments. We’re not talking about redistributing existing wealth, we’re talking about reinventing an existing sector, and creating new wealth by unleashing innovation and entrepeneurship. This should be common ground. We should be able to stand together and be one country on this.
Jones concluded by again making the call for us to “be one country” and connect “the people that most need work” to the “work that most needs to be done”:
There is so much work that needs to be done in this country to retrofit America, to cut these energy bills. And there are so many people who need work. This is our opportunity as a country — and it comes around very rarely — to take the people that most need work, and connect them to the work that most needs to be done, to fight pollution and poverty at the same time, and be one country. Let’s be one country.
During the applause at the conclusion of Jones’s speech, prominent Republican oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens — who in 2004 funded the Swift Boat attacks on Sen. John Kerry — turned to Jones and shook his hand.
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