Van Jones is in a Hurry

I read Elizabeth Kolbert’s profile of Van Jones in the New Yorker a couple months ago and was struck by what he’s doing tying the environment to the war on poverty. A couple weeks ago, the Obama administration tapped him to be the ‘green’ jobs adviser.

The profile of Jones is interesting on a couple points, Jones changed his name from Anthony to Van to create a new persona, his ability to speak to different audiences (“That was my street rap, you get to hear my élite rap later on”), and his single-minded approach to recognizing his goal.

I’m not looking for the points of difference. I’m looking for the points of commonality. I’ve trained my mind so that people can say twenty-seven things that might be objectionable, but as soon as they say one, that twenty-eighth thing, that’s in the right direction, that’s where I’m going to go in the conversation. I think that’s really important in a country as diverse as ours, to listen. So this guy, he says, I don’t want this, I don’t want that. But he says, I want everybody to be included. Well, that’s all I need. Dayenu.

The aspect I found most fascinating about Jones is how everything he says sounds like a sound bite (in a good way). I imagine this comes from his appreciation of Ronald Regan’s speaking ability.

Ronald Reagan I admire greatly. You look at what he gets away with in a speech—unbelievable. He’s able to take fairly complex prose and convey it in such a natural and conversational way that the beauty of the language and the power of the language are there, but you stay comfortable. That’s very hard to do.

I’m not the first to say this, but I know I won’t be the last. Van Jones is going to be a very big deal very soon. Mark it.

Van Jones is in a Hurry

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