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The following speech was given at Netroots Nation 2008 in Austin, Texas.
I have a little bit of whiplash. Thirty-six hours ago I was in the Arctic with Jimmy Carter. This is not a joke, you all. (Laughter) It sounds like a joke, right? You hear about the black guy in the Arctic with Jimmy Carter? No, I was really ... (Laughter)
I was really in the Arctic, man, the abominable snow Negro. No, I was really there. (Laughter) And the reason, so I'm a little bit jet-lagged, but I want you to know, if you didn't know, it was kind of kept quiet until it was over. But a number of people, huge dignitaries, all got on a boat and went to the Arctic. We spent eight days. Jimmy Carter was there. Madeline Albright. Tom Daschle. Larry Page from Google. But not just liberals and progressives; the head of DuPont was there, eight days on a boat, to look and see if what's happening with climate change is real. The head of Monsanto was there. We had Republicans and Democrats, young people, old people, state leaders, Catholics, evangelicals.
And I want you to know that after eight days of looking with our own eyes of what's going on, looking at the glaciers receding, looking at the animals and life up there that's suffering, watching the actual results and impacts of global warming, that every single person who is a part of that delegation, Left, Right and otherwise, agreed that Al Gore has been right the whole time. Global warming is real.
We have to do something about it. Nobody who goes and spoke at this thing has come to any other conclusion. You need to understand that. This is our moment. This is our opportunity. Before I get to my comments, though, since we're here, I want to tell you about my personal experience in the Arctic.
First of all, they had us on this boat, man. Lot of people have bad experiences of boats, man. You know, we're ... (Laughter) far back memories, man. I was like, I don't like this. (Laughter) It was tough, man. And then, boats are not big things. They're not airplanes. I guess it's left over from the days of scurvy or something. They're small. And, OK, I busted my head open, man. I'm serious. I busted my head open on a bulkhead, like the first day, which was not very impressive. (Laughter) So, a little bit woozy.
The other thing that happened was, we had a meeting. We had a delegation, this meeting of the delegation of polar bears. And they're very polite, the polar bears. And they're very friendly. The polar bears were not as skinny and scrawny as I expected. They were definitely smaller than they were supposed to be, but they also looked toned, looked pretty healthy.
So I said, what's going on? You guys look at lot healthier than I expected. And nobody said anything. The polar bears, they got quiet. (Laughter) And the only polar bear that spoke up was a black one. (Laughter) Oh, see? You didn't know there was black polar bears. Now I'm telling you, man. Racism everywhere. (Laughter)
But the black polar bear was honest, man. He said, look. Tell you the truth. The seals, they are getting kind of scarce up here. But we've been snacking on these camera crews y'all keep sending. (Laughter) So tell Gore to keep giving the speeches, man. The camera crews are tasty. (Laughter) So I say that because it's so important that we do more than just send delegations to the Arctic and talk about it, and worry about it. It's time to take some real action. And I want to talk with you about our action plan. And I want to talk with you about the importance of it, because one of the things that I saw when I was there was up close and personal with Jimmy Carter.
I think a lot of times, in the progressive movement, we kind of almost go along with the conservatives in making fun of Jimmy Carter, almost turning him into a punch line. But I want to say, seeing him day after day, he's one of the truly great human beings that's ever lived on this earth.
We need to give him the respect that he's due. Jimmy Carter was talking about the oil crisis. He was talking about solar power. He was talking about wind energy 30 years ago. And if we had stayed with his program, if we had stayed with his policies, we wouldn't be where we are today. So he deserves the utmost respect from all of us. We need to rehabilitate Jimmy Carter.
If conservatives can rehabilitate Ronald Reagan, we can certainly rehabilitate Jimmy Carter. We have to learn the lessons, too, from his presidency, because we are about to go into a very similar situation. Many of you are excited about the Democratic nominee. Many of you are excited about having a Democrat back in the White House and think that your efforts may lend a hand toward getting him elected.
I want to say to you, your excitement is understandable, and your ability to get him elected is not in doubt. You probably can get this nominee elected. You probably cannot get him re-elected. I'm going to say it again. You can probably get him elected, but you probably cannot get him re-elected, unless we are very intelligent starting right now. Now is the time to think about the re-election of this president, not just the election.
And the last time we had a Democrat in the White House, Democrats controlling the Senate, Democrats controlling the House, energy prices through the roof, jobs going down, was Jimmy Carter. And we had four years of that, and 12 years of Reagan-Bush. If we are not careful, if we are not smart, this could be four years as a precursor to the kind of right-wing backlash that will make us miss John McCain, make us miss George W. Bush. Don't think it's not possible. There are dragons on the Right who, in their anti-immigrant hatred, in their warmongering jingoism, in their commitment to drill and burn their way out of our energy crisis, will make you miss John McCain.
Van Jones is the founder and president of Green For All and is the founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights.