Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nominate an exemplary citizen

The morning after the Massachusetts election debacle, I got one of those emails those of us who've continued with Organizing for America (OFA) are peppered with. It came in the name of Michelle Obama; they want nominees for the Presidential Citizen's Medal:

This year, the President will be looking for several qualities in the special few he honors: people who have demonstrated a commitment to service in their own community or in communities farther from home; who have helped their country or their fellow citizens through one or more extraordinary acts; whose service relates to a long-term or persistent problem; or whose service has had a sustained impact on others’ lives and provided inspiration for others to serve ...

Here's the video invitation [1:43] that went with the email:

Not feeling that the White House had been doing all it could for the country, I decided I would send a nomination. Here's what I wrote:

Van Jones has bounced through more identities, all seeking the common good as he understood it at the time, than most of us even contemplate.

Raised in Jackson, TN, he graduated from University of Tennessee at Martin in 1986.

After internships at several southern newspapers, he went on to Yale Law School where he responded to that elite, white environment by entering a Black nationalist phase in which he called upon his community to improve itself.

In 1992 he came to San Francisco to intern at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, saw injustice in prosecutions of young people arrested during protests when police assailants of Rodney King were let off the hook for the beating, and became a convinced leftist campaigner for all victims of injustice. His work against police brutality became Police Watch, which morphed into the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, which spawned the "Books Not Bars" campaign to reduce youth incarceration.

Seeing the planet under threat from human-induced climate change and poor communities in need of stable, good paying jobs, Jones threw himself into Green for All, an environmental justice effort to offer employment fixing the problem to people who need jobs to make a better life in their communities.

Jones is also a deeply spiritual person and an enthusiastic father.

Jones served briefly in the President's administration working on environmental policy until the Right smeared him over the ordinary detritus of life campaigning for justice.

Somehow I don't think they'll select my friend Van. But he seemed an inspiring example of exemplary citizenship.

You can make your own nominations until January 28 at this site.

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