Weekly Video Blog: What is Worth Saving?

Posted on March 31, 2012

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When I recorded this video earlier this year, I had some different ideas about what today’s post would look like.  Since that time, there have been some events in the news that made me change my mind about what I’d share today.

One of the things that has been on my mind is the tragedy of what has been going on in America when it comes to the unnecessary deaths of children and teenagers from violence.  This is a complex problem, even though it seems like it shouldn’t be.

Not to diminish the tragedy of the Trayvon Martin case, but if you live in the Chicago area like I do, you can’t help but notice that there is an even bigger tragedy now happening in Chicago.  According to WGN TV, since last year there has been a  58% rise in homicides in Chicago and most of those murders have been occurring in the south side.  Many of them are gang related.

I’m not sure if anyone knows what the cause of this uptick in violence has been, but it’s not a new story.  A few years ago, the Chicago Tribune featured stories of children killed by violence on its front pages.  Unfortunately, it may be time for a return to that focus.

According to the activist Catholic priest Michael Pfleger,  who has been working on social issues in the south side for decades, the current problem is related to the fact that there are an estimated 60,000 teenagers and young adults who are not in school  in the south who can’t find jobs, and basically live without hope.  While there is no easy solution for this problem, there are some people with ideas on how to address problems not only in Chicago but across the country in our inner cities.

Several years ago when I was running a green business program in Chicago, I heard a speech at the Harold Washington Library that changed my view on how we might address the hopelessness of inner city children and adults. Listening to a charismatic activist from Oakland named Van Jones talk about a way to combine solutions to environmental challenges and social issues, brought tears to my eyes and a sense of hope.   Van Jones came across to me as one of the most visionary speakers we’ve had in American since Martin Luther King Jr.

Van Jones talked about practical and do-able ideas to create jobs in the inner cities, which he shared in his first book about the green economy.  I went up to the stage after his speech and felt privileged to shake his hand. Later, when I heard that he was going to be Obama’s green czar, I was thrilled.

Then, I watched with sadness as this good man essentially had his character destroyed by the media who painted him as a militant communist black panther.  When he “resigned” from his post a few years ago, I knew that the green movement was going to have trouble in this country and it wasn’t long after that incident when the whole climategate debacle happened.

Fortunately, Van Jones story doesn’t stop there.  In the last year, he has been the leader of a new grassroots movement, and just recently, released a new book out called Rebuild the American Dream.

Along with thousands of us who support his agenda of reality based hope, I received an email  from Van Jones a few days ago saying:

In the book I write about a lot of things:

  • For the first  time, I share my experiences working in the Obama White House — and  reveal the seven biggest mistakes that grassroots progressives and the  President made before the 2010 mid-term elections.
  • I say what I  think about the Tea Party — and detail the many things it does well.
  • While  assessing the Occupy Wall Street movement, I propose two rhetorical tricks that could propel the 99 Percent movement to new heights.
  • I explain how we can create jobs for millions of Americans — including veterans   coming home, debt-burdened students and our public employees (such as      teachers, cops and firefighters) who are being thrown under the bus.
  • Most  importantly I talk about what we must do during Obama’s second term to  have many, many more victory parties.

But ultimately this book is just the prologue to what comes next, and that is why I wrote it for you. America is not broke. We are a rich nation, and we can do much better than we are doing.

We need a game plan for victories now and in the years to come. To win, we need to build a grassroots movement as big as anything we’ve ever seen — on scale with the historic civil rights movement. This book offers my best thinking about how we can get there.

I am generally speaking NOT a political activist.  I consider myself to be non-partisan and non-political.  Yet, there are some books that really matter, I believe this one by Van Jones, might be one of them.

If you’re looking for a different set of solutions to save us from the challenges that plague this country, I hope you’ll consider reading Rebuild the American Dream.

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