The NAACP Image Awards celebrates the outstanding achievements and performances of people of color in the arts and literature, as well as individuals or groups who promote social justice through their creative endeavors.
This Friday, the NAACP will present an image award to an American leader who has a legitimate claim to sparking the creation of 100,000s of jobs across the nation and motivating even more Americans toward action to improve their lives and their communities.
As announced by NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous, the NAACP has decided to give the award to an incredibly articulate, Ivy League educated African-American lawyer who worked as a community organizer who is impassioned about how America (and Americans) can be transformed through the power of clean energy jobs and who has been the target of a malicious, truthiness-laden set of attacks from right-wing sound machine.
No, the Image Award isn’t going to President Barack Obama, but to Van Jones who was hounded out of the Obama White House by a … mob intent on throwing away one of America’s greatest traditions — that people can grow and learn and develop beyond their pasts. Sadly, that lynch mob’s splices from Van’s life defined him for too many Americans. As Benjamin Todd Jealous put it,
Van Jones may be the most misunderstood man in America.
He resigned from the White House last year after some sought to discredit him for missteps, such as political statements made years ago. However, we can never afford to forget that a defining trait of our country is our collective capacity to practice forgiveness and celebrate redemption. This is a nation built on second chances.
In America, we ultimately judge people on what they are doing today for tomorrow, not for what they did yesterday.
To be clear, Van Jones was not and is not perfect …
It is hard to exaggerate Jones’ eloquence, ability to speak with meaning to the audience before him while helping them understand things in a different way, and power to build bridges between divergent people and interest groups (at least, well, among those who are ready to keep the door open to the concept that cooperation is something with merit). He has the eloquence, passion and moral compass of a great preachers; an ability to forge coalitions of a great negotiator; and an ability to understand and articulate technical issues like a great administrator. Jones’ vision of a Green Collar Economy combined an understanding of the seriousness of the challenges and threats of climate change with a vision for the opportunity that tackling these challenges created for fostering a stronger and more perfect union.
Van’s entry into the White House gave hope to those who saw the potential for clean energy jobs to spark a rapid path out of our economic travails while setting the stage for a more prosperous and secure American future. His resignation from the White House put a pale (and, well, a pall) over the prospects that vision would be achieved. Perhaps the Image Award will help bring Van back into a more prominent role in our public discussion and that will be a step forward toward a more perfect union.
NOTE/UPDATE: Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post, reports that Van Jones will be returning to the Center for American Progress and taking up teaching responsibilities at Princeton University. Wonkroom on Jones’ return to CAP. Eilperin interview with Jones pasted late last night.
I am probably the biggest champion of free market solutions for America’s problems, period… I understand these problems well enough to understand the only way we’re going to be able to solve them is by unleashing innovation and entrepreneurship and market-based forces.
The journey that I took to get to these positions had a lot of stages and phases in it. I understand that they would raise some eyebrows for people who were trying to figure out who this president is, and who I am, and I accept that. When you step forward and try to show leadership, then to some extent, everything’s fair game.
I don’t have any bitterness or anger about the situation. The good thing about being an American is you’re free to think whatever you want, and you’re also free to change your mind. That’s my story.
And the first sentence of the following is simply true. We can hope (work to make true) that the sentences that follow are also correct.
When the food fight is over, there’s one spot of clean common ground in American politics and that is the need for us to be leading on energy, clean energy, and for us as a country to be more secure with all those jobs. … I’m confident we’re going to get there because I don’t think America is going to be willing to pass this one up. I think at the end of the day, common sense will prevail, and the common ground will be in the direction of clean energy.
UPDATE: Karen Finney interview with Jones. From there:
KF: What surprised you about what happened when you left the administration?
VJ: I was surprised buy how many different kinds of people took it hard, as a personal disappointment for them, about where American politics was headed. For some people my choice to resign signaled something very disturbing and very sad about American politics.
It is good that Jones recognizes this … too bad that the recognition came after the resignation, which helped fuel the enraged ‘just say no’ to any progress crowd who used his ‘ouster’ (okay, resignation) as a signal of their power and reinforced their efforts. Had to be tough to be Van, in their cross hairs, and it is remains unclear whether he was pushed, but the union would be stronger if Van had remained and been defended.
Karen, by the way, captured something important in her opening to the interview:
After joining the administration, the same political thuggery recently cited by a number of members of Congress as the reason for their retirement, came after him. What got lost in that feeding frenzy was that these attacks never questioned whether or not he had valuable, important ideas; the quality of his work, or if he was doing a good job. Instead, the attacks had everything to do with thug politics aimed at undermining the president.
Jill Tubman, Jack & Jill Politics, Guess Who’s Coming To The NAACP Image Awards: Van Jones!
The NAACP Image Awards in my opinion have largely been an extravagant waste of money and time in recent years, assisting black folk in need not at all. However, this is what the NAACP Image Awards were designed to do. I’ve got issues with the NAACP choice to air the Image Awards ceremony on Fox — ummm…for obvious reasons. However, this is pretty subversive. Celebrating Van Jones, author of Green Collar Economy, on the dime of the News Corp. owned network that sought to destroy him? It almost makes me…misty…with pride. It is a thing of beauty.
“We heartily congratulate Van Jones for his recognition by the NAACP and his new appointments at Princeton and CAP. Van Jones is an extraordinarily important leader and an essential voice to be heard by those tackling America’s biggest problems. He cares passionately about helping young men and women find their way in the world, even if they had the misfortune to grow up in bad neighborhoods or make bad choices — and he sees in a new green economy a powerful instrument to heal their lives.
“As the founder of Green For All, co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change, and the author of the 2008 New York Times best-seller, The Green Collar Economy, Jones has played a vital role bringing people together in ways once thought unimaginable. I am confident he will continue inspire us all with his efforts to create economic opportunities and a cleaner, safer world.”