The Return of the American Dream

10/03/2011 06:19 pm ET | Updated Dec 03, 2011
  • Carl Pope Former executive director and chairman, Sierra Club

Washington, DC -- "Progress, not pollution" are the key words as Sarah Hodgdon, the Sierra Club's conservation director, joins 25 other progressive leaders who are the symbolic faces of the new American Dream Movement, which is hosting the "Take Back the Dream Conference" here. Sarah and her partners appear onstage at the end of Van Jones's keynote speech, which is simply the best I have ever heard from a young American leader. Along with Sarah are leaders from the civil rights movement, labor unions, human rights organizations, senior citizen organizations, youth organizations, and peace organizations -- all rallying around what Van calls a "metabrand."

For my money, Van's best line is when he points out that, while the reactionary right talks about rugged individualism, it acts collectively. And while progressives like to talk about solidarity, they fail to show the collective discipline and mutual support of their opponents: "If we could only be as good to each other as the Tea Party is -- and that may be a pretty low bar -- we could do something for our country," he says.

But it's a close call, because Van's remarks are rich with wisdom -- and the funniest moment is when he says that the reactionary right and the Koch brothers "should just have left us alone in 2009. If they'd just given us a little public option, we'd all have stayed home on our sofas."

And Van opens by reporting that uniformed marines have agreed to help guard the peaceful protests going on in Wall Street.

It's quite a day.