Van Jones: This Country is ‘Choking on Change,’ We Need Each Other to Make It All WorkJune 1, 2022
- Be the best version of your own politics.
- See people as human beings first. Then ask what they are afraid of instead of asking what they are angry about.
- Interact often with others who are different from you to challenge and build upon your own viewpoints.
“Change is hard, even change that you worked for and pray for. When it gets here, it’s hard,” said Van Jones, CNN host and Dreams Corps founder. “The country is choking on change [and]…we will be strangers to each other, and we will divide each other, if we don’t recognize the people on ‘the other side of the aisle’ are also scared too.”
During the opening of the Divided We Fall: Confronting the Perils of Polarization session, Jones remarked on conversations with “people on the other side of the aisle” and encouraged attendees to “be a better version of their own politics and political party” when learning how to work together. He also acknowledged the importance of needing one another by “respecting the way birds fly.”
“I’ve never seen a bird fly with only a left wing or only a right wing,” Jones said. “We need each other to make it all work.”
Following Jones’ remarks, three other panelists joined him on stage, including:
- Morela Hernandez, Ligia Ramirez de Reynolds Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
- Elissa Slotkin, U.S. Representative (D-MI 8)
- Moderator Wendy Lewis Jackson, Managing Director, The Kresge Foundation
Jackson began the panel discussion with Slotkin, who recalled her latest work in Congress, and shared her tips for building commonality with others.
“Don’t start with politics. We have to remember that we’re all human beings before we can have that political conversation,” Slotkin said. “Go find something that you’re passionate about and go work on that issue…and you’ll probably see other people who probably have very different political views than you. But see them and talk about the issues that you are both passionate about.”
Then when the conversation does move into politics, Jones added, that some commonalities to focus on between parties include mental health issues, criminal justice reform, and youth opportunities.
Hernandez, drawing on her public policy expertise, suggested building humility with others, including “fostering and strengthening desires to make things better” and suggested it’s easier to do so in the “controlled environment” of a private corporation.
“When we think about ambivalence, challenge people to think more deeply, and it is uncomfortable to do so. But ambivalence sharpens our understanding of the issues,” Hernandez said. “So, it’s not a bad thing to hold that psychological discomfort, for even a little bit, [in order] to understand what you actually stand for.”
Thank you to The Kresge Foundation for hosting this session.