Profiles of change - Page 3

Inauguration Issue: President Obama's call for citizen action is already resonating
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That piqued Knapp's interest and reminded him of the goals of his grandfather, an auto worker for Chevrolet during the 1940s, who passed away during Knapp's first year of law school: "My grandfather always would plead with me to do whatever I could to get the labor laws back in order. So that's an issue that's really important to me."

Knapp also said that it's important to keep the grassroots Obama movement alive by continuing to push crucial legislation that was part of his platform for change.

"It goes right to the controversial pieces of law and policy that he's addressing," Knapp said. "If he's able to keep this mobilization together, that will help him significantly in getting policies through."

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PAULI OJEA

Pauli Ojea, who's about to turn 30 years old, says that she's spent her entire adult life "voting for the loser" and advocating for change that's been slow to happen.

A New Jersey native, Ojea came to California to work for the San Francisco Conservation Corps on environmental education programs. That lead to a position with Breast Cancer Action as a community organizer, where she found that hopeful efforts were often frustrated by political pitfalls.

Then, Ojea attended a 2004 event where she heard Van Jones speak about how a new green wave was coming and it needed to lift all boats. When a position opened with Jones' new organization, Green for All, she applied to be a policy analyst for the Oakland-based green-jobs advocacy group.

In between the two jobs, she spent a week campaigning for Obama with her mother, a Spanish immigrant who groused that if he lost, she'd be spending more time back in Spain.

Ojea now works on federal green-jobs policy and climate change equity, and has already been deeply affected by the Obama election. "For most of my career in advocacy, there's been this sense that we probably don't want to work on federal policy because we're not going to get anywhere," she explained. "I started at Green For All with Barack Obama elected as president and we're actually putting a lot of resources into federal policy, and there's this whole feeling like we're going to get somewhere. That's shifted for me. I imagine that for a lot of other environmental and social justice advocates, there seems to be a door opening."

She's even more enthused after meeting with members of the Obama transition team who were tasked with a review of the Department of Energy. About 30 to 40 people, representing organizations including the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council as well as renewable energy business leaders and public officials doing energy work in different states, convened in Washington DC to discuss energy policy.

"I've been to a lot of public agency meetings and what usually happens is you have maybe an hour and a half of presentation from the agency and maybe a half hour for all the organizations and people trying to get in their piece," she said. "This was different. It was about a two-hour meeting and the whole time it was dedicated to hearing from the community, from businesses, from people with experience in energy efficiency. The transition team members were fully engaged, actually listening, asking questions, asking for clarifications if they didn't understand something. They were really humble and they seemed really excited about what kinds of changes were possible. I'd never been part of a process like that."

Ojea sees more potential than ever for the activist community in the Obama administration. "It could provide more opportunity and open more doors for what your activism is about.