The Ware Lecture, the event at General Assembly that each year inspires delegates to go out and change the world, was given Saturday night by Van Jones, an activist who is working to combine solutions to America’s two biggest problems, social inequality and environmental destruction.
Jones has been working to create a “green jobs corps” putting people to work at jobs that will help America conserve and create energy. He’s created successful programs in this regard in California and got Congress to pass the Green Jobs Act of 2007 to create more jobs. He envisions millions of people, many of whom might otherwise end up in jail or on drugs, being put to work at new jobs building wind turbines and weatherizing millions of buildings as America weans itself from its dependency on oil.
He said this country is about to be taken back from “the people who told us we could bomb and torture our way to peace.” He cautioned that social activists won’t be able to rest even if Barack Obama becomes president. He said the future of the world depends on finding solutions to climate change and in making sure that Obama is adequately supported so that he can be more than a one-term president. “We’ve had a difficult dark night in this country (but) there’s going to be a change of direction. The future of the world hangs in the balance.”
At the end of his rousing speech he ran down into the audience and led cheers and slapped hands with dozens of people. UUA President Bill Sinkford, who had introduced him, had the last word as waves of applause continued. “I believe I can say that this 2008 General Assembly has received its charge,” he told the cheering delegates.
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Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.