By Barry Bergman,
UC Berkeley News
Van Jones loves his former boss, Barack Obama, he told a UC Berkeley audience Wednesday night, and “would take a bullet for him.”
Yet as happy as he was that Obama won re-election, he’s even happier — “overjoyed,” in fact — “that the backlashers lost.”
“We just won a tremendous victory because we didn’t bow down, and buckle down, and hand the country over to the worst people ever born,” Jones told an appreciative crowd of several hundred in Pauley Ballroom, site of this year’s Mario Savio Memorial Lecture.
“It’s our time,” he told them. “It’s our time.”
Taking the lectern after brief talks by a pair of younger activists, the 44-year-old Jones contrasted the “deeper patriotism” of their generation with the “cheaper patriotism” of the Tea Party movement, and urged those on the left to step up the pressure on elected officials — including Obama — to address pressing issues like racism, poverty and climate change.
“It wasn’t supposed to be ‘Yes he can,’” said Jones. “It was ‘Yes we can.’”
Well-known in the Bay Area for co-founding the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, Jones was tapped by Obama in 2009 as his green-jobs adviser.
Others were less friendly. The right-wing WorldNetDaily website — under the headline “Will a ‘Red’ Help Blacks Go Green?” — highlighted Jones’ Marxist past, calling him “an admitted radical communist and black nationalist leader.” The article sparked predictable outrage on the right and a campaign, spearheaded by Fox News’ Glenn Beck, to bounce him from the White House team.
Jones soon resigned his appointment, refocusing his attention on grassroots activism and writing a best selling book,” Rebuild the Dream.” On Wednesday, he showed how returning to private life can facilitate the exercise of free speech.
“Four years of obstruction. Four years of lies. Four years of smears. Four years of some of the worst behavior that you’ve ever seen in the United States,” he said in characterizing the behavior of Obama’s opponents during his first term. “What would it have meant for this country had they prevailed? How do you raise children in a country where the cheaters and the liars win?
“This is a moral question,” he declared. “This is not a question of right versus left. It’s right versus wrong.”