Valerie Jarrett’s years as the senior advisor to Barack Obama during his presidency brings a lot of stories surrounding her political career and the pleasures of working in the White House. Her new memoir, Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward, captures her experiences while working a top position in the highest office of government in the U.S. and having enough stamina to make it on through.
Prior to advising the former president, Jarrett began her path in politics as the assistant to Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago. She later became the deputy chief of staff to Mayor Richard Daley. While in this position, she also hired Michelle Obama, then known as Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, who at the time was a lawyer engaged to young Barack. The close relationship between Jarrett and the Obamas began to foster a bond that continued throughout their years.
While serving as Barack Obama’s right-hand woman during his presidency, Jarrett became a business administrator, joining as a member of the board of trustees for various organizations, such as The University of Chicago Medical Center and Chicago Stock Exchange. In the White House, she also served as the chair to the White House Council on Women and Girls and the White House task force that was designed to protect students from sexual assault.
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Jarrett knows a thing or two about running for office. During her conversation with Blavity:Politics, she listed authenticity as a key component in relating to potential voters. She also cautioned Democratic presidential candidates from getting too hyped up about the political points they might be scoring with voters.
“It’s tough. I’ve been through two presidential races — both in 2008 and 2012 — and I’ll tell you, this is early,” Jarrett said. “At this point in Barack Obama’s first race for office, he was down by like 20 points. So you can’t read too much into how people are doing today, because you want to see how they will do during the arch of the campaign.”
With Jarrett’s community and political involvement in preventing sexual assault, she made it known that politicians need to step up to the plate, and really listen to what survivors have to say about their experience and needs.
“They have to recognize that their intentions aren’t all that matters,” she told Blavity.“What also matters is the way that their intentions are felt by the person to whom they’re directed.”
Jarrett also saved a few words for Trump’s behavior and offered some advice on the necessary actions he needs to take to redeem himself while still in office.
“Don’t put yourself first. You’re there to serve. If you get caught up in yourself, then you’re going to take your eye off the ball," she said of Trump’s behavior. Stressing honesty and professional etiquette, she also noted that the presidential office is there to cater to the people. Therefore, those in seats of power need to act accordingly.
As for running in the presidential election, Jarrett is sticking to her community activism, inviting anyone who believes they can make a difference to go for it.
“At this stage in my life, what I’m really interested in doing is helping the next generation," Jarrett said. “I’m the chair of When We All Vote because I want to particularly convince young people, who are listening to this, why it is in your best interest to get engaged in this democracy and make our country what it should be — to reflect your values and your priorities.”
Jarrett may not be in the running for the 2020 election, but we’d nominate her for president any time.
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