Van Jones was a timely choice to give a keynote address at Netroots Nation, given the recent Shirley Sherrod episode. (video here) Jones might be expected to be bitter in light of his own Sherrod-like experience, but instead seemed to have recovered well from what he described as six months of self-pity after he felt compelled to resign from his White House position. He delivered a very positive message, and one quite sympathetic to a White House that has faced a barrage of attacks from the right since coming to office in 2009. Jones reminded outsiders, like most of the bloggers attending this convention, that it is a lot easier to have the freedom to choose your battles, as opposed to having to respond to constant incoming missiles as the administration must do. My hope is that this message might inspire the bloggers here, some of whom have tended to be a bit harsh toward the administration they helped elect, to be a little more kind and understanding.
As Jones reminded us, we should not have been surprised at the intensity of the backlash that has developed against th Obama administration. We would have been naive to expect that as soon as a more progressive administration came to power, opposition would melt away. He compared the ongoing struggle to the three part Lord of the Rings trilogy. This is an epic saga we are in the middle of, and the Orcs are not fading quietly away. Instead they are gathering their forces for counterattack. In another nice analogy, he compared President Obama to the captain of the Titanic, whom we elected after the ship had already struck the iceberg, and who is attempting to steer the ship forward with a gaping hole in its side.
Jones also recalled that he was born in 1968, the year the dream was assassinated, and he only realized the momentousness of what occurred that year when a fellow student asked his kindergarten teacher about Bobby Kennedy and she immediately started crying. I was 14 in 1968, and the events of that year had a profound impact on me as an impressionable teenager who was something of a political geek. As Jones said, it took 40 years to pick up the pieces and resurrect the dream again. We have to maintain hope and keep working for change, because we can't allow the dream to die again for another generation.