Thursday, January 8, 2009

Change Talk

"...Not only is Barack Obama not going to be able to save you -- you are going to have to save Barack Obama."

Van Jones, quoted in Elizabeth Kolbert, Greening the Ghetto, New Yorker, January 12, 2009.

This advise was offered by Van Jones on the stump in New Bedford to a group of young people. What is Van Jones talking about?

I think he means that, ultimately, the movement that Obama inspired is going to be the vehicle of lasting "change." Obama will hopefully be a great president who does great things in a time of great need. But change requires people taking control of their lives and communities in new ways that can't be top down: it has to be built up from the bottom up, even when key initiatives receive help from the top.

Van Jones is also suggesting that Obama will inevitably be pulled towards the middle as he builds a governing coalition and becomes engulfed in the realism of the moment. A vibrant, decentralized, movement for change with its own goals and aspirations can provide real evidence and models on the ground that change is possible and worth fighting for.

"If we come together and get this done, we will have achieved something quite extraordinary. We will have achieved something greater than Barack Obama has. What gave him the audacity hope? You did."

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