Former Obama advisor Van Jones keeps controversy alive in Colorado Springs


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Jones speaking with a small group who showed up to picket his lecture last night.
  • Bill Forman
  • Jones speaking with a small group who showed up to picket his lecture last night.

In last week's Indy cover story — which you can read hereformer Obama advisor Van Jones talked about the possibilities for effecting change from inside government versus working from outside of it:

"The so-called inside and so-called outside are really a part of the same system called democracy," Jones told the Indy. "So you gotta be working on both."

Last night, Jones was clearly working the outside, both literally and figuratively, prior to a lecture at Colorado Springs' Shove Memorial Chapel, as he conversed with a half dozen picketers who'd gathered on the sidewalk to protest his lecture. Given the sustained hostility Jones has attracted from Glenn Beck and his followers, the encounter showed an unexpected level of restraint and respect for opposing viewpoints — with the small exception of one protester's attempt to drown out the conversation from 20 feet away by shouting anti-Jones diatribes through a bullhorn.

Once inside the packed chapel, Jones showed off a kid-sized flag one of the protesters had given him, and spoke with an engaging mixture of humor, intelligence and candor. And as befits a controversial figure who became famous for his pre-administration comment about Republican Congressmen being assholes, Jones couldn't resist making remarks that Fox would have loved to air out of context, joking about growing up in a militant Black Panther household, about the idea for the Environmental Protection Agency coming from Fidel Castro, and about cap-and-trade being a socialist conspiracy.

In each case, Jones followed up with a correction, describing his father as a former military police officer, the idea for the EPA coming from Richard Nixon, and cap-and-trade being the proposal of a conservative think-tank. As Jones proved throughout the night, his disarming wit is accompanied by a talent for providing motivational inspiration, particularly to the "millennialist" generation of college students who'd invited him to speak last night.

Here's a short clip from the question-and-answer session that closed the evening:


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