You are a “founding father” of this country

Van Jones’ We Rise Tour
Denver, Paramount Theatre
Monday July 31, 2017, 8 pm:

Let me take you inside the recent “We Rise Tour” by Van Jones. I hope the top three empowerments stirring my heart will rouse yours too. 

Read on, especially

· if you are struggling with your feelings in the Trump Era

· if you are searching for your role or calling in social change

· if you are a new activist, and could use confirmation

· if you are a seasoned activist, and could use renewal

Full disclosure: I have loved Van Jones from day one, when I got goosebumps listening to him on a video in 2009. I followed his rise to prominence as an Obama environmental advisor. I was fascinated with his CNN  “the Messy Truth” interviews with ordinary folks all over the country, of every political bias, after the election. When offered to see him in person Monday night July 31, I leapt. I find him be a servant leader of the highest caliber — brilliant, compassionate, practical, effective, visionary.

Empowerment #1:
Self care, resilience, and love is needed more than ever

Normal as it may be to still suffer from the trauma and shock of Trump’s election and presidency, Van Jones beseeched us to do the work to come out of it. Even digesting the continuing malfeasance on the daily news can keep us in shock (anatomically speaking, our vagus never is overstimulated, and instead of going into flight or flight, we go into “freeze”). We must make a conscious decision to use our tools of psychology, intention, community, and deep spirituality to move forward. We use these tools to re-embody—to bring our soul back into our bodies.

Van Jones recounted the impossible number of funerals he’s been to—mostly black man, many of them activists, and the tremendous toll it that’s taken on him recently. This was part of the trauma he has had to come out of.

Besides the inner psychological work necessary, it is self-care, resilience, and joy lifting us out of trauma and shock. He didn’t just talk about these; they were woven into the evening in a surprising and uplifting way. Live musicians played on stage while we watch the video of folks in Denver building tiny homes for the homeless. A comedian opened the show. There was a surprise appearance of denver mayor Hancock and super-bowl winner Ryan Harris.

One of the front-line activists Van brought onto the stage was Julie Gonzales, political director of Denver’s Meyer Law Office. She was born on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, yet graduated from Yale. She spoke movingly of her journey from activism, to burn out, and back to social activism.

She revealed there was a period in her burn-out when all she could bring herself to do was garden. Now she’s running one of the most effective frontline organizations in Denver fighting for immigration justice. She testified to the powerful need for activists to use self-care—not only important for ourselves, but also because it enables us to better serve and care for the disenfranchised.

Empowerment #2:
We are founders of America


Once we can shake shock and trauma out of our nervous system, we need to reengage with the Big Picture. Why do we care? What can motivate us to go beyond our personal needs, beyond our routine life to serve something larger than ourselves?

Van’s big why is the gap between the founding father’s vision versus the reality in America today. Our Declaration of Independence declared a stupendous vision, never before then seen on our planet—we are all created equal.

… We are all created equal, really?! …

Compare this vision with the escalating poverty, fear and hatred of immigrants, Muslim phobia, and black men in prison in America right now. Jones pointed out even when our “founding fathers” were proposing this vision, they had slaves toiling their land. It took another hundred years to tear ourselves into the Civil War to “end slavery.” Then another hundred years to even begin the civil rights movement, which is not even close to its fulfillment, 70 years later. Clearly, to manifest this vision is an ongoing process, and we have work to do. We are still founding America as the great beacon of democracy where all people are created equal.

In other words, America was not really “founded” in 1776. We are all founding it right now. We are the founders too. We still have to go about the great work of moving it closer to the true vision of our founding fathers.

Realizing this understanding of our role is tremendously empowering. Each of us can adopt this view of ourselves as founders of America. In the ongoing work of realizing the True vision, not just the American dream but the True vision of democracy where all are created equal, all count, all are important.

And that segues to the third empowerment my heart came away with.

Empowerment #3:
How big can your heart open to inclusivity?

Think about it: the power and importance of inclusivity as a guiding principle in all social activism. Let me repeat that: the power and importance of inclusivity as a guiding principle in all social activism. For example, Van Jones brought up to the stage Ryan Harris—Denver Broncos Super Bowl champion, who happens to also be a black man, and even more discriminated against, a practicing Muslim. I was amazed to learn that Muslim communities in America are actually a pillar of democracy: they have the lowest rate of addiction, divorce, and crime … and the highest rate of entrepreneurism, civil service, and education. Shocking to our bias, or at least it was to mine. What’s not to include about that?

White social activists must do a better job in including the key needs of black communities. After all, the Democratic Party counts on them to faithfully vote as a democratic block 80-90% of the time. Yet when it comes to their bone-deep causes such as Black Lives Matter too, sky-rocketing black youth incarceration, or pervasive addiction issues, we tend to turn our back on these—as if they’re not issues to include in the overall movement to greater democracy and all are created equal.

Van Jones shared his visit to an immigration nonprofit helping immigrants here in Denver gain brutally-needed support and assimilation. These beautiful souls journeyed halfway around the world to escape brutal regimes, rape, tear gas, ISIS, beheadings — drawn forth by our Statue of Liberty, beacon of hope. Can we include them in the American vision of all are created equally? In fact the American vision is of immigrants–that’s all we are.

Going beyond we versus them, opening up to even deeper and more profound levels of inclusion! Then Jones asked us a confronting question: could we include the white, uneducated lower class coal miners in West Virginia, just as much as we could include the Syrian refugee?

I walked away with:

• re-dedicating myself to self-care and resilience to come out of my trauma in shock in the Trump Era,
• empowered to think of myself as a founding father of this beloved country,
• opening my heart even wider to everyone that’s a part of humanity– midwifing it into a just, verdant, and peaceful world community.

What can you take away from this post?
• how can you come out of shock?
• see yourself as a founding member of our country?
• open your heart even more?

Let these questions percolate inside you, as opposed to trying to rush to a superficial answer. These are profound questions that need to morp inside, at your soul level. Find your own unique way to engage with the greatest social movement of all time.

“The ultimate measure of a (wo)man is not where s/he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where s/he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King, Jr.


It’s time to come out of shock,
find your way and give your gift. 


P.S. While you are brewing on all this, here is an immediate, practical tool you can use for yourself and the healing of our world.