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Van Jones: optimist, clean-energy pioneer & my inspiration

October 6, 2010

I couldn’t launch without giving credit where credit is due.  A few years back, I stumbled upon a man named Van Jones in the news. He was progressive, and I liked what he was putting out to the world, so I started keeping tabs on him.  Naturally, when I got wind that he had a book coming out, The Green Collar Economy, I was stoked.  When it hit the bookshelves  in October 2008, I nearly sprinted to my local Barnes & Noble and picked myself up a copy.

To say I enjoyed the book would be an understatement. The Green Collar Economy sparked feelings of hope in me for our country.  America doesn’t have to run itself on foreign oil. We don’t have to lose and outsource jobs to other nations, and we do not have to continue down such wasteful, polluted ways.  Van’s book opened my eyes to a world where we can create jobs here in America, we can fight global warming and poverty, and we can drastically decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.  Each of us can, in our own ways, make a difference to help transition our country to a brighter, greener future.

Van Jones ignited a desire within me to try and figure out ways that I could make a difference.  I needed to be a part of Van’s brand of progress, in some way. So I began getting involved in my community by supporting green initiatives and organizations.  I have a crystal-clear view on how I want to impact this world. And for that, I will be forever indebted to Van.

Though Van’s position as Green Jobs Advisor to the Obama Administration lasted only a short while, I am certain that it was all for the better. His talents are best suited outside of the political arena, where he can transcend smear campaigns and red tape. He can now spread a message of hope and help our nation restore its previous status as a progressive, economically equitable world power. Al Gore, as we all know, has fared similarly after his career in politics with An Inconvenient Truth and projects like Repower America. Our nation doesn’t need any more politicians. It needs more eco-activists and educators like Jones and Gore.

These days, Van continues to make things happen, per usual. He’s a senior fellow at the Center For American Progress and a senior policy advisor at Green For All. He has also been appointed distinguished visiting fellow at Princeton University. The man is unarguably busy. Traveling, educating and inspiring the country as a human-rights and clean-energy pioneer is no small task. Fortunately for me, he happened to venture my way this summer. I’d like to briefly share my experience.

When I discovered he was slated to speak in the Hamptons at Guild Hall in July, I had no doubt in my mind that I’d be there. Van was part of a panel on building the infrastructure of a new economy. He didn’t disappoint. I found his speech to be entertaining and insightful. Being the dork that I am, I brought my beat-up copy of The Green Collar Economy in hopes that he’d sign it (the book is a bit weathered because I tend to write in my books and keep notes). Anyway, I was determined to at least get a hello out of him.

When the panel concluded, I saw him and his team lingering near the stage. With my book in hand, I went right up to him and introduced myself. I’m nothing if not bold. He looked at me, right in the eye, and knelt down on the stage to speak to me. Van was genuinely interested in what I was saying, and we chatted about various projects we were working on. He introduced me to his team, asked me questions and gave me his feedback. I couldn’t believe how down-to-earth he was. Van then kindly signed my book, took a photo with me and asked that I keep in touch.

In the days thereafter, I followed up with him, and from that moment forward, Van’s been nothing but positive and receptive of me. At one point, he even provided a couple of helpful Twitter tips to increase my exposure, introducing me to the trusty hashtag. I think he noticed that I was epically failing with my “tweets,” as I was a newbie to Twitter. (I’m pleased to report I’m getting there, slowly!) Van’s just a sincere, good person.

My experience with Van Jones has been a welcomed reminder that we’re all a part of this world together.  His humility and graciousness leave indelible impressions on the people that he meets. Van Jones, quite simply, is creating enthusiasm and hope for Americans.

Here’s to Van. Green for all!

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