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 (â€œThat was my street rap, you get to hear my Ã©lite rap later onâ€), and his single-minded approach to recognizing his goal.
Iâ€™m not looking for the points of difference. Iâ€™m looking for the points of commonality. Iâ€™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, thatâ€™s in the right direction, thatâ€™s where Iâ€™m going to go in the conversation. I think thatâ€™s really important in a country as diverse as ours, to listen. So this guy, he says, I donâ€™t want this, I donâ€™t want that. But he says, I want everybody to be included. Well, thatâ€™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 speechâ€”unbelievable. Heâ€™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. Thatâ€™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.