Category Archives: Valerie Jarrett

Valerie Jarrett: President Obama’s BFF

New York Times Magazine has an interesting article about Valerie Jarrett.  She’s President Barack Obama’s Senior Advisor to the President and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison.


The Ultimate Obama Insider

On Jan. 25, 2008, the day before the South Carolina Democratic primary, Barack Obama endured a grueling succession of campaign events across the state. When his staff informed him that the evening would conclude with a brief show-up at the Pink Ice Ball, a gala for the African-American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, Obama flatly refused to attend. “I’ve been to sorority events before,” he said. “We’re not gonna change anybody’s mind.”

Rick Wade, a senior adviser, Stacey Brayboy, the state campaign manager, and Anton Gunn, the state political director, took turns beseeching their boss. The gala, they told Obama, would be attended by more than 2,000 college-educated African-American women, a constituent group that was originally skeptical of the candidate’s “blackness” and that the campaign worked tirelessly to wrest from Hillary Clinton. State luminaries like Representative James Clyburn — himself an undeclared black voter — would be expecting him. They would be in and out in five minutes.

Obama’s irritation grew. “Man, it’s late, I’m tired,” he snapped. “I’m not going to any sorority event.”

The three staff members knew what their only option was at this point. “If you want him to do something,” Gunn would later tell me, “there are two people he’s not going to say no to: Valerie Jarrett and Michelle Obama.”

At the day’s penultimate event, a rally in Columbia, Gunn, Brayboy and Wade pleaded their case to Jarrett, the Obamas’ longtime friend and consigliere. When they were finished, Jarrett told them, “We can make that happen,” as Gunn would recall it. Jarrett informed Michelle of the situation, and when the candidate stepped offstage from the rally, Obama’s wife told him he had one last stop to make before they called it a night.

Check out the entire magazine article at the New York Times.

Valerie Jarrett, high powered & low key

Today’s Washington Post has an interesting article about White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.


High-Powered and Low-Key
Washington Observes the Influence of Obama Adviser Valerie Jarrett

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 15, 2009

The nation’s mayors felt left out in the weeks after President Obama’s election. He had met with the governors, but not them. Then, to their surprise, he picked a non-mayor to head his new office of urban affairs. The unhappiness only grew as the president’s economic stimulus package promised to funnel billions of dollars directly into the coffers of states, leaving mayors wondering about their role.

As the frustration mounted, some began grumbling about their White House contact, Valerie Jarrett. “They were starting to get the sense, starting to comment that maybe Valerie Jarrett isn’t the person to bring their concerns to the highest level of the White House,” said Michael Strautmanis, Jarrett’s chief of staff.

They soon learned otherwise.

Before long, Jarrett hosted a forum for more than 80 mayors in the White House East Room, where she moderated a discussion with five Cabinet secretaries who explained how the stimulus plan would help cities. The event last month was capped by remarks from both the vice president and the president. Spotting a once-skeptical mayor after the session, Strautmanis could not resist flicking a little jab. “What do you think of Valerie Jarrett now?” he asked.

Jarrett, 52, serves as senior adviser to the president, and she oversees the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs. She is the principal contact for groups wanting to reach the White House, a stated focus of an administration that prides itself on transparency and outreach to an unprecedented array of grass-roots organizations. Jarrett and her staff have organized meetings and events that bring 450 people a week to the White House. She also recommends and interviews people for top jobs in the administration, is a daily presence in the president’s senior staff meetings, and is someone Obama often calls on for a reality check.

But Jarrett’s array of titles and duties fail to convey the breadth of her influence, which is rooted in a long relationship built on a foundation of trust with the Obamas.

“First, you look to her judgment and instincts about people,” said first lady Michelle Obama, describing Jarrett’s attributes. “You want to know, ‘What do you think? What’s your read?’ The other part for me is knowledge of the president. She knows her boss. She knows his values. She knows his intent. She provides a very trusted link to the outside community. People who deal with her can trust that, number one, she has access, and also, that she has knowledge.”

Valerie has been a long time friend of POTUS Barack Obama and FLOTUS Michelle Obama.

Jarrett’s relationship with the Obamas was launched nearly 18 years ago, when she interviewed the future first lady — then Michelle Robinson, a promising but discontented intellectual-property lawyer — for a job at Chicago City Hall. Jarrett, then Democratic Mayor Richard M. Daley’s deputy chief of staff, was impressed, and she offered a job virtually on the spot. But Robinson would not take it until Jarrett met her fiance, Barack Obama.

Not long after that, the three went to dinner, where, largely at Obama’s prompting, they talked about their backgrounds and values, which they found to be similar. “Valerie is someone I immediately connected with,” the first lady said. “I really felt safe in her presence. She is someone that I trust implicitly.”

As it happens, crucial elements of Jarrett’s and the Obamas’ biographies overlapped. Like the Obamas, Jarrett had lived in Hyde Park on the city’s South Side. Like Mrs. Obama, she had soured on working in a private law firm to take a lower-paying job in public service, starting out in the administration of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

An unconventional childhood is another trait she shares with the president. She was born in Shiraz, Iran, where her father, a Howard University-trained geneticist and pathologist, worked as a doctor. Jarrett has said that when her family settled in Chicago, her background initially left her with no intuitive sense of the challenges she would face because she is black, as in Iran she was viewed only as an American. Only later did she full appreciate the burdens of race, an experience she shares with the president.

The common threads helped knit a bond between Jarrett and the Obamas, which only grew tighter over many dinners and family vacations. To this day, her parents live just two blocks from the Obamas’ Hyde Park home. For years, Jarrett served as a mentor, helping Obama forge the connections that helped launch his political career, even as her own career flourished. Jarrett has served as Chicago planning commissioner and as president and chief executive of the Habitat Company, a Chicago real estate management firm. She also has sat on numerous boards, including that of the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Chicago Stock Exchange, the Chicago Transit Authority and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

You can read the entire article here.

Valerie Jarrett

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.

You can read more about Valerie Jarrett in the October 2008 issue of Vogue Magazine and this November 23, 2008 New York Times article.

An Old Hometown Mentor, Still at Obama’s Side

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.


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