Editor's note: Van Jones, a CNN contributor, is president and founder of Rebuild the Dream, an online platform focusing on policy, economics and media. He was President Obama's green jobs adviser in 2009. He is also founder of Green for All, a national organization working to build a green economy.
By Van Jones, CNN Contributor
(CNN) - Tonight, our nation's first black president will deliver the first State of the Union of his historic second term. The time has come for him to say something about the disproportionate pain that his most loyal voting bloc - black Americans - are experiencing today.
Winning two successive elections hasn't just proven that this nation is great enough to rise above the racial discrimination of its very recent past. It's also opened the door to more frank conversations about continuing racial challenges in America.
Just look at the fierce debate over immigration going on in America today. We have progressed to the point where commentators and politicians freely discuss how to court "the Latino vote." They happily and eagerly insist that politicians should court the "Latino vote" and champion so-called "Latino" issues, like immigration reform. Discussing the promise, contributions and the needs of particular, ethnic communities in a big, diverse nation is no longer taboo.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama should acknowledge that while economic pain in today's American is not limited to any one community, some communities are in more trouble than others. Prioritizing broad prosperity for all doesn't mean ignoring the fact that some folks are further behind.
The truth is, the black community finds itself in the worst of all possible situations - both economically and politically. FULL POST
(CNN) - After 10 years unbeaten, and an incredible 470 successive victories, Esther Vergeer is hanging up her racket.
The 31-year-old has dominated wheelchair tennis for more than a decade, winning seven Paralympic gold medals, 13 world titles and all 21 of the grand slam singles events she entered, plus 23 in doubles.
"A special day: officially stopping tennis," Vergeer wrote on her Twitter page Tuesday.
She won 169 singles titles overall - 120 of them consecutively - plus 159 in doubles, and helped the Netherlands win the World Team Cup 12 times.
"I am impressed I got this far. I sometimes still cannot believe that in all these years I did not have a breakdown. But for now it's enough," Vergeer told reporters.
She was hailed as an inspirational figure by the head of the International Tennis Federation, Francesco Ricci Bitti.
"Esther Vergeer is a tremendous ambassador not only for tennis but also for disability sports," Ricci Bitti said.
Watch CNN's comprehensive coverage of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address starting 7 p.m. ET Tuesday on CNN TV. Follow online at CNN.com or via CNN's apps for iPhone, iPad and Android. Follow our real-time State of the Union live blog at cnn.com/conversation.
By Dugald McConnell, CNN
West Miami, Florida (CNN) - Sen. Marco Rubio's selection to speak right after the president's State of the Union address marks another milestone in the swift rise of the political star.
Rubio became Florida's speaker of the House at just 35, he pulled off an upset victory over Gov. Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate race in 2010, he was seen prominently campaigning with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney last year, and he is already talked about as a future contender for the presidency.
Friends attribute his speedy ascent not only to his personal appeal, but also to out-hustling the competition and being in the right place at the right time.
This year, with the immigration issue becoming a priority in Washington, he is a sought-after voice, thanks to his personal story as the son of Cuban immigrants. He also gives Republicans a fresh face to appeal to new audiences - especially to younger and Hispanic voters, both of which the GOP once again failed to win over in the last election.
Time magazine dubbed Rubio "The Republican Savior" on its cover and in a lengthy profile. (His modest response, via tweet: "There is only one savior, and it is not me. #jesus")
Rubio: I'm no savior
And now, the prime speaking slot he was selected for is adding to his cachet as an up-and-comer.
What defines you? Maybe it’s the shade of your skin, the place you grew up, the accent in your words, the make up of your family, the gender you were born with, the intimate relationships you chose to have or your generation? As the American identity changes we will be there to report it. In America is a venue for creative and timely sharing of news that explores who we are. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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