When Barrack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States, it was a monumental occasion. One with immense cultural and historical significance, but when the euphoria and dust had settled, supporters, analysts, and policymakers had to settle down to figure out the way forward. Part of that process was getting the right people around the President and trying to figure out who he could trust and who would have the President’s ear at all times. In a matter of days, it became clear that a certain Chicago lawyer Valerie Jarrett was going to be a vital cog in the Obama wheel. She ended up serving as one of Obama’s top advisors for his two terms in office.
Valerie Began Her Career as a Chicago Municipal Official
When Harold Washington was elected Chicago’s first African American mayor in 1983, one of the first set of bright, young and upwardly mobile black people he hired was Valerie Jarrett. She held the post of deputy corporation counsel for finance and development. As the administration progressed, she gained a reputation for being very reliable and forthright.
In the subsequent administration of Mayor Richard M. Daley, Jarrett was snapped up to serve as his deputy chief of staff. It was during this time that she interviewed and subsequently hired Michelle Robinson who at the time was dating Barrack Obama. She went on to hold the posts of the commissioner of the department of planning and development and later head of the Chicago Transit Board.
Valerie holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the prestigious Stanford University, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School, obtained in 1981. She is the recipient of an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
She Had A Stint In Private Practice
Before her time in the Chicago Municipality, she had worked at two private law firms specializing in commercial real estate. In 1995, she was made Executive vice president of the Habitat Company, a Chicago based real estate company specialized in developing and managing residential apartments.
Her time at the company also had her oversee the company’s attempt to speed up the desegregation of neighborhoods via the provision of mixed-income housing options. Jarrett became CEO of the company in 2007.
Valerie Jarrett’s Time as Senior Advisor to Barrack Obama
Valerie Jarrett’s relationship with the Obama family date back to 1991 when she hired Michelle as an assistant while working at the Chicago Municipality. The relationship blossomed into something more personal as she was instrumental in integrating the Obama’s into the high echelons of the City’s power brokers.
When Barack decided to run for the Illinois Senate, she pulled her weight behind him, using her contacts in the City to drum up support for him. She was the finance chair of Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign and was treasurer of his political action committee. This relationship has since evolved throughout his political career: while Jarett was like the big aunty and mentor of sorts for the Obamas’ as they made their way through Chicago politics, with Barack ascendancy, she has become a key part of his inner caucus team.
When Obama decided to run for President, she was an integral member of the President team and was tasked with engaging with black leaders, forging an alliance with the Clintons. She served as co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team and was appointed Senior Advisor to the president and assistant to the president for intergovernmental relations and public liaison.
Throughout his Presidency, Jarrett was a key member of the President kitchen cabinet and is said to be at the table when key decisions are made. She was influential in picking his cabinet, in crafting key policy directions, and was generally regarded as one of Obama’s most trusted aides.
Other key positions she held include heading the White House Office of Urban Affairs; the White House Council on Women and Girls, and the White House Office of Olympic, Paralympic, and Youth Sports. She was Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and co-chair of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
Post-White House Career
Since vacating her role as a senior advisor after Obama’s tenure as President, she has served in other capacities as the Senior Advisor to the Obama Foundation, one of the boards of directors of Ariel Investments, 2U, Inc., Lyft, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
She was given an honorary degree in Doctor of Laws from Colby College in 2016 and in 2018, she served as a distinguished senior fellow at the University of Chicago Law School.
Valerie Jarrett works with Media startup ATTN as a senior adviser, a role which will see her focus on helping the young outfit engage citizens to deepen gender equity, improve criminal justice reform, and generally advocate for positive change.
Valerie Jarrett Was Born In Iran
Jarrett was born to American parents who worked as part of efforts to make the lives of people living in developing countries better. Her father James E. Bowman, a geneticist, and pathologist and her mother Barbara T. Bowman, a professor, and child education expert were working in Shiraz, Iran, when Valerie Jarrett was born on the 14th of November 1956.
She spent the first five years of her life living in Shiraz until the family moved to London and then to Chicago. Her parents are of European and African-American descent with a DNA analysis suggesting she is also part Native American while her European roots are believed to be French and Scottish.
She Was Married to Robert Jarret
Valerie Jarrett married William Robert Jarrett in 1983. He was a childhood friend and according to her, it was a marriage to the typical “boy next door”. She had looked forward to the marriage but unfortunately, things didn’t work out.
A topic she hardly speaks about, she once revealed she was unhappy, and lonely in the union. William was a medical doctor, but she has hinted that he was more or less an emotionally absent husband.
Valerie’s marriage to William ended in divorce in 1988 but they had separated a year before. William died on the 19th of November 1993. The marriage produced a daughter, Laura Jarrett, who like her mother, is also an attorney and a reporter for CNN.