David Ackerly: My name is David Ackerly, I’m the Dean of the College of Natural Resources, and really honored today to be hosting this as a joint event with the School of Public Health. So this is one of a special anniversary series for the School of Public Health on their 75th anniversary, and then it’s the Horace M. Albright Fall Lecture for the College of Natural Resources — events that we hold twice a year.
A couple housekeeping, we do ask that you refrain from any photography during the event, and, it is being recorded on video, and that will post on our website in about a week, so keep an eye on CNR’s website, and Will, I don’t know, will Public Health have its own link as well? And on the Public Health website as well.
After our guests talk, there will be a question and answer session. And the most important thing is I ask that you wait for the microphone to come around to you so we’re recording and we’ll let our guest handle the Q&A towards the end. And if you can take a moment now, now is the time to turn off the ringer on your cell phone. I know I didn’t need to say that for this experienced crowd. Thanks very much.
The Horace Albright lecture series at the College of Natural Resources has been going strong for over 50 years and it continues today as a wonderful tribute to Horace Albright’s achievements. For those of you who don’t know among his other distinguished parts of his career he was the second Director of the National Park Service and in fact one of our guests today is the most recent director under President Obama, John Jarvis, is part of what we’ve been doing at CNR recently is launching an Institute for the Study of Parks to move forward in this tradition.
And we’re honored to have the opportunity to use the Horace Albright endowment lecture series to address issues of the public discourse around the challenges of our day and the challenges of our time. And today’s speaker certainly is relevant to that goal.
And we’re very proud to say we’ve had really a who’s who. And I won’t read the list now but have wonderful speakers in the series over the years. The lecture you’re about to hear aligns perfectly with the spirit and the tradition and the goals of these dialogues that we want to advance. I’m going to pass the dialogue to Dean of Public Health, Will Dow, who will introduce our guest. Thank you so much, David.
The achievements and work of our guest lecture today are remarkable. Van Jones, is president and co-founder of the nonprofit Dream Corps. Dream Corps is a social justice accelerator. The overarching goal is to create innovative solutions that close prison doors and open doors of opportunity. Twenty-first century jobs not jails. The Dream Corps houses a number of initiatives that you may be familiar with: Cut 50, Yes We Code, Green For All, Love Army. Fans lead a number of other justice enterprises as well, including the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights and Color of Change.
He’s a Yale educated attorney. He’s written three New York Times bestsellers, including The Green Collar Economy in 2008. Soon after that he joined the Obama White House as the Green Jobs Adviser, where he helped on the interagency process that oversaw $80 billion in green energy recovery spending. He’s earned many honors, including the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader designation, Rolling Stones 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done, Fast Company’s 12 Most Creative Minds on Earth, Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. You may have seen him as host with Van Jones show, CNN Correspondent, and regular guests on political talk shows, it is my distinct honor today to welcome our speaker. Please join me in welcoming Van Jones.
Van Jones: Hey. I should come to the West Coast more often. That’s very good my self esteem. I was just in DC. Not as good for my self esteem. So I am honored to be here. I’m going to talk a little bit and then take a lot of questions, cause I think at this point dialogue is better than harangues.
I’ll say three things. One about democracy one about society and one about ecology. We are in a fight now a real fight throughout the West to see if the liberal democracy will endure. It’s not a guarantee. It’s a weird idea in the first place. Our competitors are now China and their model which has stability and economic growth and is attractive to a lot of the countries that are coming up in the developing world: Putin, ISIS, and us. This is not inspiring.
So, even those of us from the left, who may have very strong and very well-grounded criticisms of the liberal capitalist order looking at what else is an offer, Putin, China, and ISIS, with the rest of the West growing, right-wing authoritarian movements, I think need to get a little bit more sober about what’s at stake and a little bit more sober about what it means to have a pro-democracy movement in the United States. I think you saw one week ago the emergence of a pro-democracy movement in the United States that has a capacity to fight back, to win elections, to elect women, to elect people of color, to elect Muslims, to elect the first gay Mayor, gay governor, and to actually begin to contest for power.
I think that’s important and I think it’s a big deal, particularly because we are in a particular moment where liberals are culturally ascendant but politically overall powerless and have been in free fall since 2008. When Barack Obama was elected 2008, we all were very happy. Especially you. I saw you you guys on YouTube. It was embarrassing. And understandably so, you know, Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy killed in 68, of the year that I was born, 40 years in the wilderness, and then 2008 you have Barrack Obama and people were really euphoric.
The problem is that after that, the Democratic Party went into complete collapse and nobody noticed. 2010 lost the House. 2012 barely eeked out a win against Mitt Romney. 2014 lost the Senate, and throughout, lost two-thirds of the governorships and I think 3,000 statewide offices and basically most people on the blue coast didn’t know we were in trouble until 2016. So you have this weird scenario. I think it’s important for you to take this seriously where you have liberals in ascendancy culturally, but in political free fall. You say how can you say we’re in political ascendancy culturally?
Well, think about the LGBTQ+ movement. The thing about that, in 2012, that’s a long time ago. 2012, Barack Obama himself was afraid to say that he supported marriage equality. You say that can’t be true. The man’s lying. Obama. You remember. It wasn’t Obama that came out and said this administration is for marriage equality. It was Joe Biden. Remember that? Joe Biden got out there and said it, and then Obama was like, oh, Joe. Yeah. That’s true.
Then Obama comes out there all weak and well you know, I mean just me myself personally, you know my kids go to a school where some of the kids have lesbian parents and just for me, it’s okay. No laws, no, just, but for me I think it’s okay. This is 2012. By 2016, if you weren’t for LGBTQ and the whole alphabet, you’re a bigot. And thankfully so, long time coming, that’s a lot of change in four years though. Okay, I get on the wrong side of Black Lives Matter, get on the wrong side of the Me Too Movement, get on the wrong side of any of our movements, you’re gonna have a bad day.
So there’s a cultural power that we have while we’re in political free fall. The same time, if you’re a conservative, you’re very good at figuring out how to win elections. Sometimes it’s from gerrymandering, we won’t get into that, I’m not going to talk about voter suppression, much. But culturally you feel under the gun. You may feel very uncomfortable that if someone says they’re a Buddhist or someone says that they’re into Hinduism, or someone likes crystals, or sage or whatever, you may have met some of these people, and those people are perfectly welcome in any conversation, but if you say you’re a Christian, suddenly the room gets quiet.
You may feel quite uncomfortable, culturally, when you put on television now, and you see relationships and activity that you were raised to think poorly of, right there on TV and you may feel inhibited from expressing that concern because you don’t want to be called a name. So you have now two sides. Both have power, different kinds. Both are afraid of the other side abusing their power and both want the other party to acknowledge their pain first. This is just how things were before your parents got divorced. You remember this. This should feel very familiar to you. Two sides both have power, both afraid the other is going to abuse their power and both sides want they’re pain acknowledged first. A double asymmetry. A double asymmetry that then creates a lot of energy in the system.
And we don’t know which way this thing is going to go. So in a situation that volatile, it’s not a left-wing period, it’s not a right-wing period, it’s just a turbulent volatile period, you can lose everything or win everything. The floor has been torn out from under us by behavior in the White House. That’s shocking on a hourly basis. But these movements that are arising have torn the ceiling off too. So whether we fly or fall is really up to us. Society.
It’s very hard to describe how divided we are socially. I spend a lot of time in prisons where I meet geniuses. Unbelievable genius. Creativity, smarts, hustle, wasted genius. Mislabeled genius. I meet people who have been given 20, 30, 40-year sentences for doing the same activities that I’ve seen in country clubs, yacht clubs, certain campuses. I don’t mean to shock anybody but we got some nonviolent drug offenders right here. Don’t raise your hand, it’s being recorded.
But when I was at Yale, I saw more kids doing more drugs, frankly, with more money and more variety than I ever saw kids doing drugs in housing projects. None of those kids at Yale went to prison. They never even called the cops. If a kid at Yale or Berkeley gets in trouble with drugs, they don’t go to prison. They’re going to rehab. At worst they have to withdraw for a semester and come back, but a few blocks from Yale and a few blocks from here, kids doing the same drugs that are being done by these students are going to prison. When they come out, they leave a physical prison and they enter a social prison, where they can’t vote in lot of states, still, they can’t get a student loan, they can’t rent an apartment, forever.
It’s very hard to describe and to understand how divided we are socially. I spent a lot of time in Appalachia, have a project that we’re doing where I took five leaders from South Central Los Angeles, who are frontline dealing with the addiction crisis in South Central, the crack cocaine epidemic, it’s devastated those communities. Not just because of the drug use, but because the way society responded was lock them up, build more prisons, you’re on drugs, it’s your moral failure, you know what’s going to make you better? 20 years in prison. Nobody says that about their own kid. No, my kid’s on drugs, I know what will help them, 20 years in prison. Nobody says this about their own kid.
So when somebody comes up with a solution that draconian, you know in their mind they’re thinking this is somebody else’s kid. But there’s leaders on the ground in South Central who understand an addiction crisis and what to do about it and what works. And to migrate heartbreak, now that West Virginia in Appalachia is being devastated by an addiction crisis there with heroin and meth and other drugs, at no point did it occur to any of those people in West Virginia to maybe call on folks in urban America who might have an idea what to do about it. And at no point did it occur to most people in urban America to call those folks going to those funerals.
Now, you think about that. Common pain in both communities, no common purpose, even though in West Virginia, you have people, you have some towns that literally have to rent freezer trucks on Fridays, because there’s so many overdoses that by Saturday night the morgue is full and they have to put the body someplace on Sunday. Common pain. People dying of drugs, for drugs, and from drugs, but no common purpose. So we put a bunch of leaders in the airplane at LAX and flew them to West Virginia and had them sit down and talk with some of the leaders from West Virginia about what’s going on, and Trump voters, Hillary voters, black, and Latino, white, rural, urban, fell in love in an instant. Instant. Cause they’re going through the same crap.
And yet there’s nothing in society that’s helping people find each other and find a way forward. You can say, oh this is very heartbreaking, but we’re here to talk about the environment. It’s the same thing. Things that are sacred or not being honored. In our political system, things that women march for, and African Americans and our allies march for, and died for, and bled for. That labor leaders laid down their lives for. That folks at Stonewall risked their lives for. Things that the Jewish community stood up against on a global scale. They are all being thrown in the garbage can because things that are sacred are not being honored.
I don’t believe we have any throwaway children. I don’t believe we have any throwaway neighborhoods or nations. And we certainly don’t have any throwaway species or resources. It’s all sacred and yet it’s not being treated that way. And so part of why this fight to save the earth itself and its ability to maintain life for us and for our children is so important and so challenging is because the other things that don’t work.
See people are mad at Trump because, well he’s Trump. You can just double click on that icon and just very long list. Trump is doing a bunch of bad stuff, that’s not his biggest crime. He has a lot of crimes: snatching babies from mamas at the border. That’s a crime that will stain that family’s name for 10 generations and that’s just one of his crimes. But doing bad stuff is not his biggest crime.
His biggest crime is that he’s stopping us from doing good stuff. He’s stopping us from doing necessary stuff. He’s stopping us from doing the things that we all know need to be done to bring us together, to re-power America in a clean way, in a green way, to put people who don’t have jobs, who are in prison, or at risk of going to prison, to work — putting up solar panels, making organic agriculture work, becoming entrepreneurs and these new sectors. Every single thing that’s good for the earth is a job. It’s a contract. It’s a business opportunity. Solar panels don’t put themselves up. Wind turbines don’t manufacture themselves. Organic gardens don’t make themselves. Every single thing that we need to make the earth whole is also work that can make our society whole.
And when we have a whole society, democracy flourishes because there’s enough. So there’s not this sense of scarcity and so these ecological solutions are bigger than just the way that the environmentalists talk about them. The ecological revolution is key to the social revolution, which is key to the democratic expansion. It’s all the same, it’s one process, and you can tell because it goes up together or it goes down together.
2008 you had a guy who ran for office, the highest office in the land, and he said global warming is real. He said it’s caused by humans. He said cap and trade will fix it and it will create millions of green jobs, I miss that guy every day. His name was John McCain. His name was John McCain. John McCain and Barack Obama were both climate champions in 2008. Ten years ago, both parties nominated people who agree with you on climate who agree with you on the environment, both parties.
Think about that how far we’ve fallen, it all goes up together. There was an expansion of democratic hope, there was coming out of the breakdown of the financial crisis, a breakthrough in terms of public spending and stimulus and that kind of stuff and a huge commitment on the part of President Obama to green and clean solutions. I know I was there, so were you. It all goes up together or it all comes down together. But we commit the sin saying that’s not my issue. That’s not my issue, prisons. That’s somebody else’s issue. I’m working on the environment, or environment screw that, that’s just a bunch of hippies screw that, you know, I’m woke.
How woke you gonna be on a dead planet? So, this is why I think smaller discussions, like the one we can have now are important. I’ve got a lot of solutions and positive happy stuff. I’m not gonna leave you this down. But I want you to know, who you are, and what you believe in, and what you believed in before you had a name for, back when you were just a kid, because sensitive, bizarre child, I mean that’s, let’s just face it, we were, when we were kids. Most of us in this room, almost all of us care too much, cry too easy, hate to see anybody mistreated. Sometimes we cry more for the kid getting picked on than the kid cried for himself or herself. Hate to see somebody kick a dog, even though it wasn’t your dog.
So you care. And you’re needed now. That care too much quality, which has caused you so much pain these past two to three years is the most precious thing we have in this country. I want you to resist the temptation to become what you’re fighting. There’s a way that we can sometimes think well, they’re mean and hateful and terrible and so now I’m going to be mean and hateful and terrible and they won’t listen to me so I won’t listen to them and they don’t care about us, so I’m not going to care about them.
I don’t mean to offend anybody. And I hope you don’t walk out of here mad at me. The KKK is very good at hating people. You suck at hating people. I’m sorry. You suck and hating people, you’re not good at it. You’re trying, but you’re miserable. Okay, every day it’s the same thing. You wake up, you open your eyes, you reach for your phone, and you start freaking out. And you freak out until 10:13, when you put the phone back down and you wake back up and then you say, I hate these people! I hate that man! And the thing is, I’m sure that you’re trying your best, but you’re just not good at it. You’re not going to out-hate these haters. You’re not going to out-divide these dividers, you are going to fail at that.
But you can outwork them and you can out-love them. And you can out-human them. And that’s what you were born to do anyway. We will govern again. Last week showed you, I mean we had, what, 110 million people come out in the midterm. The biggest midterm performance in like a century. There is a majority out there for you. Looks kind of like this room. Kind of like a Skittles bag, all colors and weird people. There’s a majority out there for you, you can govern, you can win some elections.
But are you gonna govern for everybody, or you just gonna be the mirror image of this stuff. That’s not obvious yet. How much hatred and vitriol are you spewing. How much contempt do you have for the people who voted against you? How many of your conversations about how somebody else is stupid or wrong or bigoted. Cause how you are when you’re down might give a clue to how you’re going to be when you’re up. And how you use the power you have right now might give some insight into how you might use the power you’re going to get later. And I’m worried about us.
Because, Van you’re holding us at awfully high standards given who the president is. Yeah I am, because I know you. You’re not fooling me or anybody else. Your main heartbreak about the people who voted for this nonsense, is number one, you and I both know we left them behind a long time ago. Most of us grew up in those towns and couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. And they started closing those factories and people started dropping dead of opioid overdoses. I didn’t go check on them, neither did you. That’s true.
They didn’t come help us and we didn’t go help them. You and I both know that 99 times out of 100 when we say straight white male, it ain’t a compliment. At some point people might get the message. You and I both know that it’s not probably the best strategy when you’re trying to get people to come around to have as your main slogan “You suck, vote for me. You are an ignorant bigot, vote for me.” Not saying we should put up with ignorance or bigotry, but I’m saying that you and I both know hurt people hurt people. And love is not a finite resource.
We created a beautiful circle in 2016 that included Muslims, proudly, included Black Lives Matter, proudly, included the Dreamers and other immigrants proudly, LGBTQ+ everything else proudly, nominated the first woman proudly. And we should never go back from that, one of the most beautiful circles I’ve ever seen, around that 2016 moment, and anybody says that we were wrong for including all those folks who had been left out and spit on and mistreated, no, we’re going to keep that circle.
But it’s conceivable that we may have accidentally made that circle a little too small, and there may have been some folks who were hurting who didn’t feel that they had a place in that circle, and that’s okay. Now you’ve lost me now, Van. My God, I didn’t come here to hear this crap. You want to center those white guys, again? Put them back in the center, they’re the only ones that matter. Not what I said. Keep the circle that we’ve got. But just make it bigger. Everybody left out before keep in the center. I love them. But I’ve seen coal miners in Appalachia dying of black lung disease, who risk their lives and their limbs and their lungs to keep the lights turned off for me and you and who coal companies then threw overboard and won’t pay their pensions and won’t pay their health care.
I haven’t seen any liberals come to fight for them because they voted for Trump and they weren’t for fossil fuels. And you say Van, how can you be out there helping the coal miners in their fight? They voted for Donald Trump. I say wait, hold on a second, let me get this straight liberals, you guys love me when I go to San Quentin and work with people who’ve been convicted of murder. But how can I work with a Trump voter? This is where we are now? I mean, I love my friends San Quentin, I mean I love everybody, but my friends on death row in San Quentin might arguably have done more harm than a sick retired coal miner who voted for Trump.
You’ll govern again. You’ll govern again. You’ll have happy days. You’ll be embarrassing your kids on YouTube, slinging all that snot like you were slinging in 2008. I saw y’all in Berkeley, Berkeley was embarrassing the world when Obama won, that was pathetic, y’all were crying and booing. But my hope and my prayer is that the next time we win in our hearts we’re going to be not winning against, but winning for. Thank you very much.
How long we got for questions? Like literally 25 minutes? We have 20 minutes, okay, good. Alright, here’s how we’re gonna do it. I’m going to take three or four questions in a row. I’m not going to answer them. Just gonna take the questions so I can kind of see where we are. Then I’ll try to answer quickly and then we’ll do four more and see if we can get through. But I’m not, we won’t ping pong it that way we get more, more questions in. I’m not gonna call on Eve.
Eve: What’s up Van.
Jones: Hey Eve.
Eve: Are we just opening it up?
Jones: Well yeah, whoever’s close to you.
Female audience member: Hi.
Female audience member: Hello, so I wanted to thank you for your presentation. I thought you brought forth a lot of coaching points and it was very inspiring and that’s one of the reasons why I’m here is to build community and to be inspired. So one of my questions for you is what can we do to help you because you need to inspire all of us. I recently went to the Climate Reality Project training with Al Gore and one thing that really struck me was how happy and proud he was to look at all of us. We looked at it from our point of view, like, oh my gosh, we’re here this so great, but the impact it made to him is something that was meaningful. So I want to know what I can do for you.
Male audience member: Hello.
Male audience member: Hi, thanks for your talk. You started with a comment about the challenges to our democracy.
Male audience member: I’d like to get your thoughts on the structure in the Senate. Currently 10 states have 50 percent of the population, and we have 20 senators and you can see the flip of the arithmetic. So there’s a tremendous imbalance. Wyoming has two senators for about a million people and we get one for each of the 20 million in California. And I wonder if you can see a solution to the structural problem from 1787.
Mona: Hi, I think it’s me. Hi, my name is Mona. I’m the director of the Brower Youth Awards, and this year the whole cohort came to me and said Mona we want to tell you something, we’re all struggling with climate anxiety. So I said, what’s that, and they listed the IPCC report and their concerns for the future and I tried my best to comfort them. But I know I need help. Being in in this realm of working with youth, I do wonder what I should be saying so I wondered if you could help me with that.
Josie: Hi, thank you so much for coming today. I have a question about how you see us being able to scale that empathy that you spoke about between people in LA and Appalachia and, you know, empathy at large.
Jones: What’s your name? Hi Josie. Let’s get one more.
Eve: Hi, it’s Eve. I want to know if you’ll please run for President in 2020.
Jones: I thought you liked me. I must have offended you somehow.
Female audience member 2: Hello, I’m actually a scientist and I was wondering, with respect to, there wasn’t a lot of talk about the environment, actually but I’m all the social and political aspects of this talk resonate and what I want to ask you is, as a scientist, is how do we do a better job of communicating with the body politic and society because right now I’ve just given a talk about the IPCC, the latest IPCC report, very depressing. We all know it’s very depressing. However, right now I feel like, can you give me something concrete, action, because I feel a little bit like as a scientist, I’m doing my job, my job is to know how the environment works and make predictions and all of that, I’m doing my part of the deal. However, nothing is happening when I give, when I give my part of the of the assembly line, you know, my, my participation I give it, and I give it wholeheartedly. But then nothing. The process just stops. So I would like a bit of hope, a bit of a concrete something if you can give me that I can go out of here and do.
Jones: Cool. So the first question: what can you do for me and the last question what can we do together is the same question. So, let me just deal with that right up front, the climate science is dope. So thank you for what you’re doing. It’s the brain science and the political science that we somehow don’t apply to the next step. It is very, very hard for people to accept bad news. Period. So most people refuse to see that there’s a problem until they know there’s a solution. And you know the minute is a solution suddenly people can accept the problem. I mean, for instance, everybody in here in a hundred years is going to be dead. That’s a big problem, but you’re not worried about it, there’s nothing you can do about it.
If it turned out that there was some app you can download and get an extra 200 years and your phone didn’t work, now you got a problem. Okay cause there’s a solution because you’ve got a problem. And so what I would say is that the solution side of climate I find more motivating, I got accused of being an environmentalist accidentally. It wasn’t my ambition to be an environmentalist. I was trying to get jobs for Pookie and Snoopy, Run-Run and Shanaynay. That’s what I was trying to do.
Like I had one question can Pookie get a job, that was it. And it was self-interested, I was tired of Pookie standing in front of my house. I would rather Pookie to be on top of my house, putting up a solar panel than being in front of my house. So it was very practical and we had just passed a bunch of bills in California to make it possible for the solar industry to take off and all this sort of stuff. And it turned out they had a labor shortage because they had all these consumers and products and companies and advertisements and tax credits and no workers. So people were ordering solar panels and it would be three to six months before they would go up because they had no workers. And I said, well, geez. You know, you got the most important work that needs to be done and I got the people who most need work.
So can we put these two groups together. So we created something called the Green Jobs Corps in Oakland, and we started training young folks from the community to put up solar panels. And then a woman named Nancy Pelosi, who had just become Speaker of the House, for the first time, heard about our program, took me to Washington DC, had me testify in front of her committees, and we got George W. Bush to sign a bill called the Green Jobs Act 2007 to spread that little programs from Oakland all across the country. 2008 I wrote a book about it, the book became a best seller, a guy named Barack Obama read the book, and a year later I’m in the White House overseeing $80 billion in green and clean recovery spending and we had a real shot, and, Ted Kennedy died.
Ted Kennedy died and we didn’t have 16 votes in the Senate anymore. And these wonderful people call the Koch brothers, decloaked. And you’re like what the hell is that in the sky, you know. Back to your doom, you know, like, where did you guys come from and it turned into a horror movie from which we haven’t recovered. But I remember the moment that it turned. It took Gore telling everybody that we’re in trouble and then the rest of us saying, and here’s how we solve it and we had that big green moment, and then our opponents came and smacked us down.
And I’m going to tell you something, this is why I said, so the political sciences says lead with a solutions. Every solution to climate change is going to create jobs and that kind of stuff. But then the brain science comes in. If you punch, which I don’t advise anybody doing, this is a hypothetical. But if you were, if someone were, inadvisedly to punch a conservative, they would get mad. If you punch a liberal we’d get sad. Okay, it’s just how we are. So when they started punching us, we got sad. We said Jesus, this is terrible. Why are they so mean? Don’t they understand? We need another report, you know.
So I think, honestly I mean I saw a group, I’m not gonna mention these groups’ names but very large environmental groups, the minute that Green Jobs was no longer popular, dropped the whole thing, just dropped it. Oh, now it’s not popular, forget it. And what they didn’t understand is that we had gotten the entire Congressional Black Caucus, every black congressperson except for Archer Davis, who then became a republican and doesn’t count. But every other, every other black congressperson we had gotten to vote for cap and trade under Obama saying jobs were gonna come.
That you were gonna be retrofitting all these buildings, cutting energy bills in your poor districts and putting people to work to put in those new furnaces and blow in all that clean installation, the jobs were coming, and the minute that they said well that’s green socialism and it’s no longer popular, all our white environmental allies ran down the street. We never heard from them again. That’s the truth when it was popular and polling well they were for it. It got unpopular for three days and they abandoned it. You can’t build a Green Growth Alliance like that.
God bless my conservative friends, they have some of the worst ideas ever, and they stick with them. They’ve been fighting against the Voting Rights Act since it passed. And now where is it? It’s inactive. They fought against the Voting Rights Act for 50 years and won. We couldn’t stick with green jobs for one year. Now we’re wandering around 10 years later, how do we get people back engaged? People were engaged. But we couldn’t deal with the counter fire. That’s brain science and political science, you’re doing your job, but the rest of us need to understand, we have to say that we got a better future for you, not a worse one.
Number two, the Senate, the electoral college, and all the things that we want to point to today, if the election have gone differently in 2016 we wouldn’t be talking about. So part of this is, it’s a feature, not a bug, these little nobody states get a say. I like little nobody folks getting a say when they’re poor black people. I like little nobody folks getting a say when it’s poor Latinos or Native Americans or LGBTQ, so I need to be consistent. Our Constitution makes sure that poor little nobody people in Montana can’t just get run over. They at least get a say in the Senate. I think it’s a good thing. We did figure out how to go talk to those people in Montana and figure out where there’s some common ground and with this common ground which work together. If we can’t, we should beat them other ways.
But I don’t like this idea that based on one election working out catastrophically, we now want to throw away protections in our constitution for minorities and smaller groups that voted against us. I just don’t like it. So I don’t see it as a bug. I see it as a feature, I like it. It makes us work harder. We got to go a lot of places we wouldn’t go otherwise. We can’t just be on our coast with our big numbers and impose our will on the rest of the country, which would backfire in other ways. I like the way the system works, we got to work it harder.
With regard to climate anxiety. Look, I don’t have a happy song for these kids, I don’t. And I don’t think our kids in the western democracies deserve a happy song. You got kids in Yemen and Syria, they’re not going to make it from here til tonight. So if you’re gonna have a rank order of kids who are anxious, let’s just have some perspective. Okay. And we got to talk to kids like that. You got the, you got the best shot in the world at saving the world in your generation. Look man, we’ve gotten, look, I love everybody. We’ve gotten a little soft. We’ve gotten a little soft. I, you know, I don’t have to lecture anybody here, but there was a time when they put dogs on my father. They put fire hoses on my aunts and uncles, they used to lynch people, and still do.
And you go to Berkeley or Brooklyn and people are like these tweets. Like are you shitting me? This is, I’m sorry Sir, but this is taking you out of the game? You can’t handle some mean tweets? Like this is for all the marbles folks. So yeah, listen, they’re anxious I understand that. It’s terrible, but they got no monopoly on anxiety. They have a damn near monopoly on having some, having the ability to do something about it, and we got to tell em, yeah, you know that bad things can happen. Bad things can happen and we need resilience and grit, you to figure out what it is that you need to come back to your center to make sure you’re loving your life while you have it cause none of us is gonna be here forever, even this planet if we save it won’t be here forever. The sun will get big and heat it up.
All we’re doing right now is trying to act out our best version of ourselves while we’re here. That’s our only responsibility and when the outcome is not known — it wasn’t known by Nelson Mandela, it wasn’t known by Fannie Lou Hamer, it wasn’t known by Gandhi, none of our heroes and she-roes knew the outcome. They didn’t even know what to do. They mainly knew who to be and how to be, and they worked on that. So you keep working on who you are, and the stand that you take, and you may not be here tomorrow, I may not be here tomorrow, but this idea that the kids in the West, they’re, you know, being freaked out by what they see on Twitter or the last thing they downloaded is, should be met with no other than a stern, loving, call for more strength from them.
Don’t let them throw a pity party for themselves, get in some little circle and talk about how sad they are, no, no. no, no. no, no. I mean we gotta, we gotta do better than that. I don’t know what I did to offend Eve. I am never gonna run for office for one reason: there is a lie we tell ourselves that we don’t have great people running for office every time, we do have great people who run for office every time. And some of them get in there, but the culture is so toxic that even the good ones, once they get in there, you hate them too.
So, so what I would say is, who’s calling me? Hey. Just for the benefit of your recording she said the DNC, if they were, they’d be calling to cuss me out because I give them Hell too. I think that, I think this idea that we need leadership in the White House is correct. However, there are other centers of power we need leadership too. We need leadership on Wall Street and we don’t have it. Leadership in Silicon Valley and we don’t really have it. We need leadership in down in my industry, in the media, you know, where we are just doing whatever we can to get like a viral moment going so we can keep our little viewership so I’m trying to show leadership in the cultural sector where frankly we already have power and I don’t think we use it properly.
And then hopefully we use our power better then whoever runs in either party, they can do better. By the way, I do not subscribe to the point of view that Republicans should stop being Republicans. We need Republicans and we need Democrats. I’ve never seen a bird fly with only a left wing. Not even in Berkeley. Okay but we need the best of the Republican Party and we need the best of the Democratic Party. We need some Bobby Kennedy Democrats and we need some Jack Kemp Republicans.
Let me just say one last thing in the 30 seconds I got. Josie asked the best question. Not that it’s a competition. But she asked the best question: how do we scale empathy? How do we make it cool and fashionable to care about people even when they don’t care about you? I don’t have an answer, but the fact you asked that question. What I love about the environmental community and why I base myself here, even though I got a thousand other concerns, is you guys are very good at empathy. You guys care about critters that would eat you. Oh the polar bears! They don’t feel the same way about you. Don’t go hug one. So, if you can generate some empathy for a polar bear that would eat you right now, I think we can have a little bit more empathy, even for the Trump voters. Thank you very much.
Thank you all for joining us this afternoon, really appreciate it, it’s a very powerful, inspiring call to action. Go forth.