Saturday, March 12, 2011


Van Jones: A Ladder To Climb

By Dave Johnson

March 11, 2011 - 2:21pm ET


Van Jones gave an inspirational closing talk at yesterday's the Summit On Jobs & America's Future in Washington D.C. Beginning by talking about the Tea Party movement and how that movement really points a path for progressives to feel encouraged instead of discouraged. Seriously.


From notes:

"We are all trying to answer a very simple question: where did the hope go?


Dream no small dreams. If we had been here together 24 months ago that would have been a remarkably unremarkable statement. 24 months ago no one had ever heard of the tea party. Hope was the watch word. It was a beautiful moment.


I was born in 1968. That was the year they tried to assassinate hope in America. King, RFK, beating the kids on the streets of Chicago trying to make America better, and we spent 40 years in the wilderness after that year. 40 years… Reaganomics … then 2008 and hope.


Now we see the return of that fighting spirit in Wisconsin. I feel a great joy. I don’t think we can afford to let hope die on our watch.


Many of us have misread our history. Hope did not come from our President, his victory in Iowa and his victory in the election. I want to remind you where the hope came from. It got started in 2003. That was when this horrible unjust war was launched against the people of Iraq. That was when regular people rose up, we didn’t have a leader, we had the Internet. We organized more people in 6 weeks against the invasion of Iraq than had been organized in 6 years against Vietnam.


The NY Times was stunned; they called it “the world’s second superpower” -- the only thing that could challenge the Bush administration.


We organized to help the Kerry campaign, not a great candidate, but came within 100,000 votes in Ohio of winning. Within 100,000 votes, just within a few months.


After we got defeated we could have quit. People said “I’ll move to Canada” – (as if they would want you in Canada.) We had the heartbreak of hurricane Katrina.


Out of that moment in 2005, new things grew up, blogs, George Lakoff was begging people to understand language, the Apollo alliance, Green for All, Howard Dean became head of the DNC, Al Gore returned with his movie about climate change… People began to seriously work to take back Congress,

We had an historic breakthrough in 2006. Elevated Nancy Pelosi to third most powerful person.


There was a young Senator who wanted to go out and sell a book. He got hit with a tsunami: you: ordinary people across the country who were already organizing, standing up for change.


And this new guy, from outside the bubble, went around the country, said if I stand with this movement, we can make history and that’s what happened. People all around the world were touched. People wept all around the world. People in NYC were hugging and crying. It was a remarkable achievement; 500 years from now people will still know the name Barack Obama. He inspired us.


As inspiring as he is, we inspired him first. (applause0

So if there is a hope gap, an inspiration gap, anywhere in the country, don’t just look to the White House, from the President, if there is a hope gap it came from you, the movement was never “Yes, He Can” I can remember all the way back to 2008, that wasn't the banner, it was, "Yes WE Can”


So how do we get back to the We, what can WE do, not what can HE do to make our country better.


First understand that we have other patriots who love the country and have ideas about how to solve our problems. We should look at it and analyze it and understand what is happening in our country. The Tea Party didn’t exist 24 months ago. They looked like you, I mean sad. In that they had just had a real bad election outcome and things looked terrible and no one cared about them and then someone threw out an idea.


So understand them. We are patriots and they are patriots too.


One reason they are so effective is they are designed for today, for right now. Change happens rapidly. What does that mean: all that infrastructure we built up in 2008 was great, but then the world changed in 2008. The crash, Obama elected and social media took off.


They have a narrative about the economy, "cut cut cut and we will grow grow grow."


Obama being elected didn’t confuse them, it clarified for them they had someone to be mad at. It came together a certain way, I call it the perfect swarm. They interrupted our perfect storm moment with a perfect swarm.


They show us what we are capable of.


How many people here have gone to the Tea Party headquarters here in DC and knocked on the door? It doesn’t exist, it is a swarm, it is 2300 affiliates that all share a brand as the Tea Party. They have supportive media, organizations, but you don’t see dick Armey out there saying join Freedom Works, they are all saying join the Tea Party, a very intelligent strategy


A perfect swarm.


The other thing I want to say about them is they tell an America story


Four elements to a good story: villain, threat. hero and vision.


They have a story. An American story. A deep part of our founding story.


Obama villain, threat liberty stolen, their hero a movement of patriots, their vision liberty restored. A powerful narrative.


Our problem is for the last two years what was the narrative, what was the story, who was the villain?


Couldn’t be Bush, he was gone. He had 8 years to mess it up; we don’t get 8 weeks to fix it.

Can’t be Wall Street because we’re helping them out, try to punch Wall Street you might hit Tim Geithner.


What’s the threat? You think "it’s bad now, it could get worse" is not very motivating.


Who is the hero? Obama, Pelosi, Reid and also a bunch of subcommittees.


What is the vision? A new economy with health care and stimulus bill and stimulus and energy policy and car companies got saved.


I'm a bright guy, I listen to NPR every day, I live in DC, I couldn’t follow the story.


So people got confused, it is hard for people to understand what you are doing and why you are doing it.


So people got confused.


But you see our story now beginning to emerge, arise, because of you.


People sticking up for each other in the heartland, people taking care of neighbors.


We believe in the American dream.


Not the American fantasy, everyone’s going to be a billionaire


The American dream, if you work hard, play by the rules, you should be able to keep your house, buy your daughter a prom dress, looking at her for 16 years she comes to you and

You can’t even buy her a prom dress, it doesn’t feel good, "no, baby, I can’t do that."


It’s the American dream. We can’t let it die.


You can only fight for the American dream if you are a full fledged patriot, not a half patriot. It is the result of people standing together for liberty AND JUSTICE for all.

We believe in liberty, but we also believe in justice. For all, free from tyranny, and corporate tyranny.


That’s who we are, fight for the American dream for everyone, that’s who we are.


I want Wall Street to play by the rules because I am fighting for the American dream.


I want the protection of my grandparents back on the law books, I believe in the American dream.


The main store of wealth for ordinary folks, we bailed out the banks, now they won’t help people keep their houses, that’s wrong.


"The fight to preserve the American dream" will find an audience.


Who is going to stand with us? It ain’t a small number


There are 5 casualties in this crisis


Now you need a movement for hope and change, easy when everything is with you, but now is the time.


(1) The Unemployed: Been unemployed 24 months, 36 months, they deserve a chance to work in America.

(2) People who have been thrown out of their homes.

(3) Veterans coming home to no jobs, suicides, 17 a day. Taking them from the battlefield and dropping them into an economic battleground with no help. They deserve better. If the private sector won’t give them a job the public sector should. We should obliterate the term "homeless veteran."

(4) Young people, millennial, graduating off a cliff this spring, in the millions into the worst job market with no help from anyone, apparently neither party cares enough to say they deserve a job. They want to serve America, they want to be involved, give them a hoe they’ll go make a community garden, a book they’ll set up a library, but no one is giving them a chance. They will listen to this message.

(5) Lastly, what the media calls our public employees, I call them cops and firefighters and nurses – America’s everyday heroes, they are the LAST people we should throw aside in a crisis, the last people we should walk away from, thrown in the garbage can.


The best of our everyday heroes.


It’s bigger than the Tea Party.


This is a fight to protect and preserve everything we achieved in the last century, not just progressives but the American people. If you look a the last century, 200 years ago, they were in the garbage can, women couldn’t vote, blacks, lgbt, we won the last century, America became beautiful and extraordinary, this is what they want to repeal, they want to repeal the last century


Our friends, the Tea Party, they’re not invincible, a thin demographic base, thin set of American values, they only care about a negative set, don’t tread on me. We care about the whole set. But they are our sisters and brothers, as frustrated as we might get with them, they are like Sampson pulling the temple down on their own heads.

They might ideologically hate government but they need government services just as much as we do. We are fighting for them too, they need firehouses in their neighborhood, and they need schools.


I am much more concerned and inspired by the joy we were able to generate 24 months ago than the way we feel now.


This is not a left wing moment, not right wing; it is a volatile turbulent moment.

This month on the 15th Defend the Dream rallies.

On April 4 Labor Rallies.

Line up the dominoes, bring the hope back.


My dad was a cop in the military, he had enough sense to know: joined the military, got out, put himself through college, put the family through college, and he was a bootstrapper. Rugged individual. Nobody more rugged than Willie Jones.


Nobody is gonna give you anything to stop you from being poor, you have to climb the ladder out of poverty yourself, everyone has a responsibility to climb their own ladder. But the society has a responsibility to make sure there is a ladder you can climb.


We’ve got to make sure there is liberty and justice for all.


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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