In 2011 protesters shut down Wall Street, on March 1 protesters will shut down the university, and on March 5 they will shut down the capitol. It is no surprise to the UC Santa Cruz student body that we are in a class struggle for social and economic equality.
Van Jones spoke on campus on Feb. 21 about the economic crisis and his reformation of the American dream.
Jones is a Yale Law School graduate, former advisor to the Obama administration, bestselling author of “The Green Collar Economy,” award-winning pioneer in human rights and clean energy economy, and was dubbed one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2009 by TIME magazine.
Charismatic and humorous, Jones described the center of America’s struggle as an economic and cultural task. The notion of the American Dream, he said, is a confused and misinterpreted one that should be transformed to better reflect today’s society.
“There is a thing they call the American Dream,” he said. “This is the notion that everyone in American is going to get as rich as they possibly can. This is not the American dream, but it is the American dance. This dream is a dying dream. This dream is dying, and it should be dying.”
Jones is currently working on an organization called Rebuild the Dream, which focuses on community reformation through traditional techniques, like teach-ins and rallies, as well as digital services like online petitions and viral digital projects. The plan is to reestablish the American dream as something that protects and expands jobs for the middle and lower classes.
UCSC students are part of the new generation in this plan, Jones said.
“The diversity you have in your generation is a miracle in history,” he said. “You have every class, every faith, every race, every gender, and you’re even making new genders. You have all of these things, and you get along pretty well. This diversity, through your generation’s social and political movements, can and will restore prosperity.”
First-year Leilani Salvador is a member of the Cultural Arts and Diversity Program board of directors. Salvador helped organize and sponsor the event.
“One of our goals [with bringing Jones to speak] was to get a more politically diverse community,” Salvador said. “The majority of the politically active communities on campus are ethnically white students. For us to have Jones, who is a politically prominent figure, represented by so many ethnically-based groups really encourages ethnic students to participate in the campus’ political opportunities.”
Dr. Marla Wyche-Hall, director of the African American Resource and Cultural Center, one of the event’s sponsors, said Jones spoke well about the challenges and promises facing our diverse, multicultural generation.
“I think one of the purposes of his speech was to cross boundaries,” she said. “We have to acknowledge the differences between our social and ethnic groups, but, despite this ‘rainbow generation,’ we can still come together and make change.”