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21st Century’s Martin Luther King speaks in Las Vegas

July 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

For most Americans, you don’t go to Las Vegas for truth but to escape reality.

This morning, one of America’s most eloquent, thoughtful, and passionate speakers when it comes to energy, climate, and social issues took an hour out to speak truth in Las Vegas.

Above is an hour long … but it is an hour well spent. We will be lucky if the speaker, Van Jones, becomes the 21st century Martin Luther King. Now, MLK was assassinated … but, so too, was Van — character assassination.

Van’s eloquence is hard to capture with a speech filled with amusing but thoughtful and substantive one-liners. Van is one of the few people that I will go to listen to time and time again. I “know” what he is speaking to but he says it with such power and eloquence. I learn every time that I listen to him and I am, yes, motivated. It is difficult to do Van’s words justice … and impossible without a transcript … but after the fold are some thoughts / extracts. My recommendation: turn on the above and listen through it perhaps even if you are doing something else on the computer while listening to him.

Tactically, we have to be engaged in conflict. But we don’t want to win the food fight, we want to end the food fight. As we move forward, the challenge is not to engage in a conflict with the other side, but to create a contrast so that the American people can see what we stand for and make an informed choice.

Van is fighting for solutions, solutions that will ‘create a more perfect union’ and bring value to all Americans, not some small elite.

“I want to turn the Rust Belt into a Green Belt.”

Put all Americans back to work, red states and blue states.

Van is calling for a ‘Green Jobs’ revolution for putting Americans back to work …

This is a rich country … what we don’t have is the will and courage to do the right thing.

The limitation is not in our pocket book, it is in our hearts and our hearts can grow.

There’s plenty of money out there … the question is how we’re going to spend it.

Van speaks strongly about the skills of America’s workers, specifically auto workers, in part through highlighting that he and his audience “can’t make a car” and, after a week, would be lucky to “make one hubcap, kinda wobbly, let’s respect America’s workers … and put them back to work.”

We could put the whole country back to work … and that’s just on energy.

True and Truth …

Much of the ‘blogosphere’ attention to the speech relates to Van’s words about the role of the blogosphere and how it relates to the Obama Administration.  For example, TPM with Van Jones to NetRoots: Quit beating up on Obama! There is some real truth in what Van says.

I can’t stand it. President Obama volunteered to be the captain of the Titanic after it hit the iceberg

Yes, Obama took over in the nation in perilous times in a situation combining quite serious interlocking serious and, even, existential threats.  And, yes, Obama (and the Administration) has achieved many things.  Yet … yet … being inspired by and respecting someone serious does not mean that total agreement is necessarily the path.  Calling out the Administration when it fails to live up to its own stated ideals is not wrong. Calling out the Administration (and Obama) when they pursue counterproductive policies (such as support for drilling in March 2010 or the support for “Clean Coal” or …) is not wrong.  Striving to inform policy and ‘push the Overton Window’ toward better political discourse and better policy making is not wrong.   There are those in the blogosphere who are trying to leverage Van’s words into some form of near slavish endorsement … simply put, that is not my read on what was said and, even if that is an accurate read, it is not one that I subscribe to …

But, develop your own opinion of this and other things that Van discusses.  Take the time to listen to this speech and be inspired …

[See below for partial (informal) transcript.]

NOTE: The title derives from something I wrote on MLK day several years ago. Here is some material from that post:

he world has changed. The only two faces, the only names of people of substance that seem to compete with Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald or a Pokemon figure for instant awareness among children are Black: Barack Obama and Martin Luther King. The world does change. And, it can change for the better.

I have a dream …

Thus, my young children know who MLK is without even needing prompting from their parents. He is, even for my 4-year old, a hero, a name of excitement and power.

Thus, they paid attention when I took them to hear the man who I told them might be, hopefully will be the Martin Luther King of the 21st Century: Van Jones.

For those who follow my blogging, my focus is clear: energy and global warming challenges. I blog as part of my efforts to help us (US) chart and sail a course through the perfect storm created by Peak Oil, Global Warming, Peak Water, Population Growth, and the myriad other intertwined challenges to a good future for your, my, our children and all of us (and all for the U.S.).

Through my path of discovery, through my engagement on these issues, I have had a chance to find real heroes and Van Jones is truly a hero. He speaks with power, with insight, with passion, with eloquence to the challenges and opportunities of combining “green” issues with dealing with the challenges of equity in our society and across the globe.

On this Martin Luther King Day, “I have a dream …” I have a dream that we, in the United States and Globally, find a path to combine the fostering of a climate-friendly economy with the path toward an equitable society. Eco-Equity. True sustainability requires this combination. As I look around at my Pantheon of Heroes, Van Jones stands out as a man who is playing a major role in fostering that dream.


Since I was here 2 years ago, all my dreams came true and all of my nightmares.  After a long pity party,  realized I was certainly not alone.

These are the days of hope and heartbreak…even you as truthtellers who built the blogoshphere and tried to strengthen America by reinventing media, suddenly someone has taken your work and using it to undermine America.  Hope,  and now heartbreak.

We find ourselves in a dangerous situation going from 8 years of despair to 8 months of hope, a few months of change, and it’s in your hands whether we go back to despair once more.  Change is good days and bad days, but if you don’t go all the way back to despair, change is still possible.

You didn’t lay down for 8 years of GWB, and we can’t expect the right will lay down now.  We didn’t get to a fi ish line I January 09, but to a starting line.

How can we be more beautiful even though the bullies are more and more ugly.  We don’t want to win the food fight, we want to end it, by creating a contrast so the people can see how beautiful we are.

We  can’t be distracted into all these side issues, that’s a losing strategy for us..

How do we put America back to work and fix everything that has been broken?  Next year kids will be going to school with twice as many kids per class, bridges and roads falling apart around us, because we don’t have any money.  As we do all these things to shut down public services, because we don’t have any money.  But America is rich – we have plenty of money, if you don’t believe me, ask Halliburton, ask the banks, ask the tax-subsidized oil companies…this is a rich country, poor in the execution of our values.

What we’re lacking is the will and the courage  – there’s plenty of money, don’t  let anyone tell you otherwise – we just need the heart to spend it wisely.  Put America back to work and pull America back together – we need to grow our hearts, and it is our job to grow America’s heart.

We are the addicts to the big oil and big coal companies, with heroes losing their lives, just so we can power America in the same old way.  We’re the ones who have been pushing.  America’s future is not down those holes..  Want to  see the future, look up.  Look at the sun. Solar panels don’t put themselves up there is plenty of work to be done in America.  We have a Saudi Arabia of solar energy and a Saudi Arabia of wind in America.  We have the best most skilled, hardest working workers in the world, let’s put them back to work.  Put union auto workers and steel workers back to work building wind turbines and solar panels to repower America.  We have smarter ways to do this now.

Each wind turbine, as much steel as in 26 cars.  Put Americans back to work.  Jobs of tomorrow making the products of tomorrow.  Put the green Ph.D’s back to work and the PhDo’s.  Green belt and rust belt.  Farmers could get three paychecks – 0ne for growing fuel products, one for a win of solar farm, one for smart carbon farming and playing in the carbon markets.

You don’t want a battleground forever…with more diversity but less prosperity, and that’s not want we want.   Our opponents see that future, and their answer is to reduce the diversity – stoke racial fears, go after immigrants… ours is to increase the prosperity.

Your heart got broken a long time ago.  You LOVE America, America the Beautiful, and you believed what you were told as children …you believed that song and you would defend it from clearcutters and oilspillers and everyone.  You pledged allegiance every day and you believed it – liberty and justice for ALL. It didn’t say, except for thr gay people, except for the immigrats.

That’s what motivates us and we don’t talk about it enough.  Someone along the way took that away from you. We should call ourselves patriots,  red states, blue states, we’re defending the best of America.

There’s a deeper patriotism. That’s what has to motivate us going forward.

I was born in 1968.  That was the year the assassinated hope in this country..shot Bobby Kennedy, shot MLK.   Grieving didn’t last 5 years, it lasted 40 years until we finally got the hope back.   And it’s a flickering candle now.  You can’t let your own issue let you be part of blowing out that hope in America, you can’t do that, you must…keep hope…alive.

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Tags: Energy · environmental

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 luckie // Jul 30, 2010 at 5:08 am

    Hearing Van Jones speak to the Netroots Nation audience was “surreal”. I too felt very much like we were witnessing a 21st Century incarnation of Dr. King.

    I’m anxious to see what becomes of Van Jones, and hopeful our policy makers & corporations will heed his pro-active, GREEN recovery plan for America.

    Checkout my post on Van ~ I believe anyone blessed to witness his address, walked away with hope renewed.