Van Jones: I am in the unique position of being a grassroots outsider, who became a White House insider, who became a grassroots outsider again. I witnessed lots of mistakes, missteps and missed opportunities on both sides of that divide. The White House did not understand or appreciate the grassroots movements, and the grassroots movements did not understand the limits and role of the White House. I wrote this book to give people a deeper understanding about why the movement for "hope and change" came up short. I also wanted to put forward a coherent game-plan for making real progress, in the second Obama term.
There are two versions of the American Dream. One is what I call the "American Fantasy." That is the version in which everyone is somehow, magically going to be "rich, rich, rich." We all are going to move out to the great suburbian utopia, buy McMansions and buy flat-screen TV's to cover up the holes in our lives. We will ALL be in the top 1 percent! That is the American Fantasy, which has turned into an American nightmare for millions of Americans.
The other version is more simple, humble and true. It is the basic idea that "you can make it if you try." It is the idea that you don't have to be born rich, or have a famous last name, to be able to work hard and get somewhere. The first version is worthless. The second version is priceless.
What's the most important lesson you've learned from your time in that White House?
I learned that having control of U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and the White House is not enough to make real change. That is just one-third of what you need. You also need a serious media operation like FOX, and a serious grassroots movement like the Tea Party. We did not have either, so we came up short.
What are you most excited about this particular historic moment?
I believe that we can bring back the movement for "hope and change" - but not centered on any personality, politician or party. It can be crowd-sourced by the people. My book - Rebuild The Dream
shows how it can be done.
Any special call to action for the Ella Baker Center community?
I am proud to have helped create EBC nearly 16 years ago. I hope that everyone continues to support the work of bringing justice, peace and opportunity to the people who need it most.