Another long time friend of the Obamas, Valerie Bowman Jarrett has been named White House Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison.
Valerie comes from a very prominent black family in Chicago. Her father, Dr. James Bowman, is currently Professor Emeritus in Pathology and Medicine at the University of Chicago. Her great-grandfather was the first African American to graduate from M.I.T. and her grandfather was Robert Taylor, the first African American to head the Chicago Housing Authority. Her mother Barbara Bowman is an African American early childhood education expert and co-founder of the Erikson Institute for child development.
An Old Hometown Mentor, Still at Obama’s Side
By JODI KANTOR
CHICAGO — On a dark afternoon last week, the road to Jerusalem and Beijing momentarily veered through the office of a real estate company here.
Valerie Jarrett, the company’s chief executive, had signed her resignation letter an hour earlier, and now she was taking phone calls from potential top diplomatic appointees.
“You don’t need to thank me,” she said soothingly to a booming male voice on her cellphone. “I just wanted you to have a chance to make your case.”
If someone were to rank the long list of people who helped Barack and Michelle Obama get where they are today, Ms. Jarrett would be close to the top. Nearly two decades ago, Ms. Jarrett swept the young lawyers under her wing, introduced them to a wealthier and better-connected Chicago than their own, and eventually secured contacts and money essential to Mr. Obama’s long-shot Senate victory.
In the crush of his presidential campaign, Ms. Jarrett could have fallen by the wayside, as old mentors often do. But the opposite happened: Using her intimacy with the Obamas, two BlackBerrys and a cellphone, Ms. Jarrett, a real estate executive and civic leader with no national campaign experience, became an internal mediator and external diplomat who secured the trust of black leaders, forged peace with Clintonites and helped talk Mr. Obama through major decisions.
She “automatically understands your values and your vision,” Michelle Obama said in a telephone interview Friday, and is “somebody never afraid to tell you the truth.” Mrs. Obama added: “She knows the buttons, the soft spots, the history, the context.”
In January, Ms. Jarrett will go to the White House as a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, where she will be “one of the four or five people in the room with him when decisions get made,” as Anita Dunn, a Democratic strategist close to Mr. Obama, put it. Ms. Jarrett, who is a co-chairwoman of Mr. Obama’s transition effort, will also serve as the White House contact for local and state officials across the nation and the point person for Mr. Obama’s effort to build a channel between his White House and ordinary Americans.