Former White House green jobs advisor Van Jones, founder of Green for All, declared “I’m back,” Friday during a keynote address Friday in which he urged a crowd of 10,000 college students and young leaders to join him in taking greater control of the conversation about the direction of the nation’s energy policy.
“You have to make a decision not to wait your turn,” he told attendees at the Power Shift conference in Washington, D.C. “Dr. King was 25 years old in Montgomery. The Freedom Riders were 19 and 20 years old. The founders themselves were in their 20s and their 30s. Don’t let anybody tell you you’re going to be the leaders of tomorrow. Tomorrow is not promised. You must be the leaders of today.”
Jones, who resigned from the White House in 2009 after his political views and past comments came under fire by conservatives, is now a fellow at the Center for American Progress think tank.
President Obama and lawmakers from both parties must be held accountable, Jones added. He compared the president to a friend who has the potential to be an A-plus student, but is earning just Cs and Ds, and who they’d push to do better. Young activists can be heroes “for making sure their friend gets an A-plus on his presidency,” he said.
Jones also argued that the wealthy should not be the only people who have access to energy-saving innovations.
“Don’t leave anybody behind. Wealthy people have the solar panels. The poor have the big energy bills. The poor can’t afford the solar panels,” he said. ”Shift the power. We can’t afford the poor people to not have solar panels.”
On Monday, the same group of young activists will head to Capitol Hill to lobby congressional staffers and any lawmakers not back in their districts for the Easter recess. Jones advised them that during those meetings they should ask, “Where are the jobs? Where are the opportunities? Where is the chance for our generation to make a contribution?”