As Van Jones stood on the stage at Wednesday’s PTTOW! ceremony, the CNN host, Dream Corps founder, and social justice activist spoke about change when accepting the Nelson Mandela Changemaker Award. “Nelson Mandela changed the world,” Van said, “but first, he changed himself. That’s what people forget.” Earlier in his speech, Van spoke about how Mandela — who fought against apartheid in South Africa to the point where he was imprisoned for nearly three decades — found “beauty in his opponents.”
“He didn’t just believe in the beauty of his own people,” said Jones. “He believed in the beauty of his opponents.” In a time of deep partisan divides across the world, Van delivered a message of seeking out “beauty” and common ground on the opposite side.
Jones was recognized for his commitment to social justice activism and criminal justice reform. Van has co-founded five social impact organizations: The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Color Of Change, Green for All, Dream Corps, and REFORM Alliance. The latter is a prison reform-focused REFORM alliance that was co-founded along with the JAY-Z, Meek Mill, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Michael Rubin, and more.
The 2022 Changemaker awards celebrated Van’s part in The First Step Act in 2018, a piece of prison legislation that sought to curb mandator minimum sentencing, place prisoners in facilities closer to home, expand female prisoners’ rights, offering benefits to nonviolent offenders who complete recidivism reduction programs while maintaining good behavior, and more.
The June 8 private event also featured appearances from Paris Hilton, Ryan Reynolds, LL Cool J, Katie Couric, and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Kweku Mandela. Ryan Reynolds and LL Cool J received Legacy PTTOW! ICON honors during the event. Jones now joins the list of past Nelson Mandela Changemaker recipients, including Meek Mill, Sharon Stone, Sophia Bush, Toronto Raptors President and Founder of Giants of Africa Foundation Masai Ujiri, Global Citizen CEO/Founder Hugh Evans, and Dr. Martin Luther King’s advisor, Clarence Jones.
PTTOW! is a network of “today’s most creative and influential CEOs, CMOs, and Icons from all 70 major industries who are creating the world of tomorrow.” Members include icons from Tony Hawk to Quincy Jones to the Dali Lama and iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman.