The 2 Moments That Moved CNN's Van Jones Most During His Trek Across The Country

"It's just incredibly humbling."

CNN host Van Jones is perhaps best known for his work in the studio, but for the last few weeks he's been traveling across America.

The best-selling author and progressive activist set out on the "We Rise" tour in late July, but after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, Jones is renaming the tour to "We Rise Against Hate." On Wednesday, he'll be in Nashville, Tennessee alongside guest speaker and Grammy-winning artist Demi Lovato.  

"Things got a lot more serious this weekend," Jones told A Plus. "We rise against hate and we're trying to call on everybody across the political spectrum to stand up and isolate these Nazis and stop this hate wave before it gets more momentum."

Throughout the tour, celebrity guests and political pundits have joined him as he moved between cities. Tennessee — where Jones was born and grew up — will be the 11th of 14 shows on the tour. The event will be streamed on TIDAL. Up until now, he's primarily visited the liberal strongholds, including New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Denver, but the CNN host said he has no qualms about returning home.

Van Jones and actor Adrian Grenier. Photo via Dylan Rives.
Van Jones and actor Adrian Grenier. Photo via Dylan Rives.

"I'm very comfortable in the red part of the country and it's part of why sometimes I surprise my coastal liberal friends with my views," Jones said. "I'm happy to be here in the part of the country I grew up in because there are a lot of really good people who voted for Donald Trump. And if any of those people come to any my show, I think they will be pleasantly surprised that I'm very tough on Donald Trump but I am not tough on all of his supporters."

While Jones is honest about his progressive views, he also says he was one of the few people who took Donald Trump (and his Twitter feed)seriously and didn't totally overreact when he was elected president.Now, during the tour, all the proceeds raised from ticket sales will go the Dream Corps, an organization Jones co-founded and describes as a "support center" or incubator. 

With the funds from the tour, Dream Corps will continue pushing forward on its three signature goals: #yeswecode, #cut50, #greenforall. Yes We Code is dedicated to helping 100,000 men and women with diverse backgrounds to find a place in the tech sector. Green For All does similar work, but is aiming to leverage a green economy "in the hood," as Jones put it. But perhaps the most ambitious and potentially reformative program is #cut50, which Jones says has a chance to change the justice system in America.

"It's a campaign working with Democrats and Republicans to cut crime and incarceration in half over the next 10 years," Jones said.

Throughout the tour, Jones said he's been moved frequently, but two moments stuck out to him. In Denver. he got to meet refugees from Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, who he said blew him away with their gratitude at simply being in America.

"I was just really moved by how hard it was for them to get here, and how much they wanted to be here," Jones said. "We just take a lot of stuff for granted in America. Just how happy somebody can be just to get a bus pass or a photo ID because it means they're here. It's just incredibly humbling."

He also pointed to a group of young teens he met in Chicago, where gang violence has caught Trump's attention. Recently, Trump threatened to send federal troops into Chicago if the city couldn't clean up its violence. Now, teenagers are camping out on street corners in Chicago where there is known gang activity in hopes that their presence will stop bullets from flying.

"On the ground, people are working for peace and taking real risk," Jones said. "I think the country should rally around those young people. Instead the Trump administration is talking about sending in troops. None of the kids there think that's going to make anything better."

With the tour almost set to wrap up, Jones is now preparing to return to CNN and host a few fall specials. He's hoping, despite some of the tensions in the country and anger at CNN, that he can use his platform to do some good. He knows that while some liberals may never watch Fox News and some Trump supporters may never watch CNN, that he still has an opportunity to do some good.

"I think the CNN platform is still a strong enough and respectful enough platform that it can be used to build bridges," Jones said. "And I think an honest effort in that regard is really what I'm most excited about." 

Cover photo: Ethan Harrison.

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