Van Jones talks to Grist about his new job as Obama’s green jobs guru
It’s official: Van Jones is joining the Obama administration to be the voice of green jobs in the White House.
“I’m honored and proud and humbled,” Jones told Grist on Tuesday, after the appointment became official. “Some of these ideas, we were kicking around in Oakland and the Bay Area for a long time; to see them embraced at the highest level of government is humbling and exciting.”
Jones will serve as the special adviser on green jobs, enterprise and innovation at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, a new role designed to elevate the issue within the administration. In that position, he’ll work both to implement green jobs policies and connect those jobs with communities that need them most.
“I think it shows that President Obama is not just the first black president, he’s the first green president,” Jones said. “He’s a civil rights professor who is also passionate about solving global warming. That’s exactly what I’m about … I’m just excited that it seems like the time has come for hybrid solutions that address the climate and poverty issues.”
So what exactly will the new job entail for Jones, who has made a name for himself as an author, speaker, and all-around green jobs guru as the founder and president of Green for All?
Jones said his job will have him working with interested parties inside and outside government. He’ll work closely with CEQ head Nancy Sutley, climate and energy adviser Carol Browner, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and others in the administration to propose green jobs provisions to be included in the climate and energy bills expected to be debated in Congress this year. “I’ll be working to make sure that those are designed to create as many jobs for as many people as possible,” said Jones.
While Jones has won acclaim for fiery speeches that get just about every crowd worked up about green jobs, the new job will be more about implementation than generating applause, he said. “I’m hoping now that in general, the green jobs movement will be getting more applause for results more so than rhetoric,” said Jones.
He said that his transition from outside agitator to government insider is indicative of the transition “green jobs” is making.
“I do feel like we’re going from a period of inspiration to implementation,” said Jones. “I’m hoping that people will be standing up and cheering for the people going off to work, not just for people like myself who are giving speeches.”
Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins will succeed Jones as the CEO of Green For All, which after 14 months of existence now boasts a multi-million-dollar annual budget and a network of 70,000 people around the country. Ellis-Lamkins is currently the head of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA.