Cross-posted from the Wonk Room.
In a passionate keynote address, green jobs leader Van Jones exhorted the 10,000 youth climate activists at the Power Shift conference in Washington, D.C., to “shift the power” and lead the clean power revolution. He argued that both parties need to be held accountable for their failures, and that activists must explain that the climate movement isn’t just about “hippie power” but that it is a vision of liberty and justice for all.
Van Jones had harsh words for the national political establishment. “You have to be wise enough to hold both parties to high standards,” he said:
While they’re stuck on stupid in DC, your generation is rising.
Van Jones also discussed President Barack Obama, who hired him as a green jobs adviser but then let him go after Jones’ politics and person came under a relentless barrage from Fox News’ Glenn Beck. Jones argued that President Obama is like the friend who has the potential to be an A-plus student, but is only getting C’s and D’s. Jones told the assembled youth from campuses around the nation they can be a “hero for making sure your friend gets an A-plus on his presidency.”
Van Jones described how we have a civilization “fueled by death” — fossil fuels from plants and animals that died millions of years ago:
We pull out of the ground death. We burn death in our power plants. Why do we get shocked when we get death in our sky as global warming, death in our oceans as oil spills, death in our children’s lungs as asthma and cancer?
The strongest moments of his speech came when he discussed America’s basic principles, in the context of arguing with “your uncle Joe” who watches Fox News at the Thanksgiving table. “Don’t you believe in liberty?” Van asked. “Shouldn’t we have the right as Americans to be energy producers?” he asked. “Shouldn’t we have the right and liberty to be free from energy companies who dictate how much we pay, what air we breathe?” Coal and oil companies try to divide us with cultural stereotypes and political ideology, when a green economy is actually the truly American economy:
The stereotype is that solar power is just hippie power. But it’s also cowboy power, farmer power, rancher power, and Appalachian mountain power!
Van Jones addressed the Tea Party movement that sees him as a “terrorist” and “communist.” “I’m glad our sisters and brothers in the Tea Party are talking about liberty,” he said. However, he said, they’re missing something important. The Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t just talk about liberty being integral to our nation:
The Pledge of Allegiance says liberty and justice for all!
With his voiced raised to the diverse crowd, Van Jones said “justice for all” includes justice for minorities, justice for women, justice for gays, and justice for the poor.
“Shift the power!” Van Jones concluded to thunderous applause.