I’m usually not one for hobnobbing with the hoi poloi. But it was hard not to get into the groove last night at the Environmental and Clean Energy Ball in Washington, D.C., where many Obama cabinet appointees dropped by to dance, savor chocolate truffles and talk about their hopes in Obama-nation.
Lisa Jackson, who’s been tapped to lead the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, was the first Obama pick to grace the podium. I had a long chat with Lisa late last year at the Glamour magazine shoot we both did in New York in October. At the time, she was chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine after having completed a stint as the state’s top environmental regulator. She spoke then of the frustration of trying to reduce pollution in a state riddled with out-of-date manufacturing facilities. Tonight, she told the cheering throng how thrilled she was to be taking the helm at EPA and pledged to work with us all to set a new, cleaner energy course for the U.S. BTW – Lisa personifies the new brains Obama is bringing to government. She graduated summa cum laude from Tulane University’s School of Chemical Engineering and has a Master’s Degree in chemical engineering from Princeton.
Department of Energy Secretary nominee Steven Chu, another brainiac (Nobel-prize winning physicist, director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), was all smiles as he told the audience he shared our goals to reduce climate change and develop more clean energy resources. Chu is famous in my crowd for saying “Coal is my worst nightmare.” We couldn’t agree more.
Margo Oge, EPA’s Director of the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, echoed the sentiments of her colleagues and the crowd with an enthusiastic endorsement for a greener, cleaner future.
Newly elected New Mexico Senator Tom Udall – not a member of the Obama cabinet but still a Democrat with a solid environmental protection track record – pledged his support for an energy future based more on solar and wind than fossil fuels. Sen. Udall has been appointed to two key committees – Commerce, Science and Transportation, and Environment and Public Works – where he can make good on those goals.
Then there was a surprise. General Wesley Clark, former Democratic presidential candidate and former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces for NATO, stepped on to the podium. Anyone who’s been following the debate on energy and national security knows that Clark has become a vocal advocate for reducing American dependence on petroleum. He made it clear that he sees the next four years as an opportunity to craft new energy policy that could help restore America’s economy as well as our standing in the world.
Emcee Jan Hartke, a long-time personal friend and colleague and now an official at the Clinton Foundation’s Climate Initiative, spoke as forcefully as any of the guests about the new environmental opportunities our nation faces. Jan and I have worked together in Washington on and off for the last 20 years. “This is the first time I have real hope,” he said. Don’t we all!