Former adviser to President Obama speaks with ISU students
Jan 19, 2013 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
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NORMAL -- Former White House adviser Van Jones urged people to follow the example of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to get involved and work for a better America, reminding his audience that the civil rights leader was barely 25 when he stepped on the national stage and only 39 when he died.
"Why do we revere him " asked Jones, the featured speaker Friday at an Illinois State University dinner celebrating King's legacy. "It wasn't because of what he was able to achieve. ... It was because of the quality of the effort, not the quantity of success."
He said King's dream "was giving America a second chance at the greatness we are striving to still become."
The one-time adviser to President Barack Obama told a group of students earlier in the day that their generation is "poised to do a lot," using its technological savvy and sheer numbers.
But, he said, "You're also the most mistreated generation in terms of what we expect from you," pointing to ongoing war, rising student debt, the struggling economy and lurking environmental problems.
Jones said both Republicans and Democrats are asking good questions such as "How much will this cost and who is going to pay for this " as well as asking whether the country can be great if it only will do what will make a profit for business.
"Unfortunately, what's happening now is we're shouting past each other," he said. "Hopefully, your generation will have better listening skills, better problem solving skills."
Jones encouraged students to be involved in issues.
"Everything that I do now in my life, I learned when I was a student," said Jones, who has founded three nonprofit organizations, written two books and will be a CNN correspondent during Obama's inauguration.
"You have a tremendous opportunity as young people to develop a skill set ... by being active and engaged," he said.
Derick Downey, a graduate student in communications from Normal, agreed with Jones about the need for young people to be involved.
Active in the "Occupy" movement, Downey said, "The main thing I learned is that national politics is theater. To make a difference, you want to be as local as you can."
Jones told students, "If you guys don't start sticking up for yourselves, you're going to get steamrolled."
Another communications graduate student, Robert Self of Galesburg, was most intrigued by what Jones expects Obama to do in his second term "and what will be left out -- meaning what we will have to correct in a next administration."
Jones said, while the "climate crisis" deserves attention, Obama "is going to be in a fistfight over debt and deficit."
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