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The Honorable Valerie Jarrett

Lawyer, businessperson, and civic leader Valerie Bowman Jarrett was born Valerie Bowman, November 14, 1956, in Shiraz, Iran to education expert Barbara Bowman and Dr. James Bowman, a pathologist and pioneering geneticist. Her maternal grandfather was Chicago housing legend, Robert Taylor. Moving from Iran to London, Jarrett attended Tetherdown Elementary School. Returning to the United States, she attended Shaesmith University of Chicago Lab School and graduated from Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts in 1974. Jarrett received her B.A. degree in psychology from Stanford University in 1978 and obtained her J.D. degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981.

Beginning her career as a corporate banking associate at Chicago’s Pope, Ballard, Shepherd, and Fowle, Jarrett then joined the real estate department of Sonnenschein, Carlin Nath and Rosenthal. In 1987, she was tapped to serve as deputy corporation counsel for finance and development for the City of Chicago under Mayor Harold Washington and continued service under Mayor Eugene Sawyer and Mayor Richard M. Daley. From 1988 to 1989, Jarrett also served as director of Leadership Greater Chicago. In 1991, she served as Mayor Daley’s deputy chief of staff. Jarrett was appointed Chicago’s commissioner of planning and development where she consolidated three departments and was awarded the Women’s Business Development Center’s Government Support Award. In 1995, Mayor Daley appointed her as chairman of the Chicago Transit Authority where she served for eight years and was responsible for a budget of over $800 million. That same year, Jarrett was appointed Vice President of the Habitat Company. In 2003, Jarrett was elected to a three-year term as chairman of the Chicago Stock Exchange. In 2007, Jarrett was named president of the Habitat Company.

A longtime advisor of President Barack Obama, Jarrett served as co-chairperson of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team. She is Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison.

Accession Number

A2006.165

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/13/2006

Last Name

Jarrett

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Schools

University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Stanford University

University of Michigan

Northfield Mount Hermon School

Beulah Shoesmith Elementary School

First Name

Valerie

Birth City, State, Country

Shiraz

HM ID

JAR04

Favorite Season

Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

And That Is That.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/14/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

Iran

Favorite Food

Ice Cream

Short Description

Real estate lawyer, city government appointee, and presidential advisor The Honorable Valerie Jarrett (1956 - ) served as president of the Habitat Company, and was a former chairman of both the Chicago Transit Authority and the Chicago Stock Exchange. She was also the Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Liaison.

Employment

Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP

City of Chicago

Chicago Transit Authority

The Habitat Company

Chicago Stock Exchange

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Valerie Jarrett's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls her childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes how her upbringing shaped her worldview

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls how she was perceived in Iran and England

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett reflects upon her childhood experiences abroad

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls appearing on 'Bozo's Circus'

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls her teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her decision to attend Stanford University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls her childhood exposure to politics

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers her changing academic interests

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls her psychology professors at Stanford University

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls her social life at Stanford University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers her decision to attend law school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls joining Harold Washington's administration in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her early roles in Chicago's city government

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers Chicago's Harold Washington administration

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls Harold Washington's sudden death

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls the transition to Eugene Sawyer's administration

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls becoming Richard M. Daley's chief of staff

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls forming Chicago's Department of Planning and Development

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her work for The Habitat Company

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett talks about the redevelopment of Chicago public housing

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls the opening of Chicago's Robert Taylor Homes

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett reflects upon the role of civil service

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes the impact of Section 8 housing vouchers

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls her appointment to the Chicago Transit Authority board

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls reforming the Chicago Transit Authority

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls the Illinois Fund for Infrastructure, Roads, Schools and Transit

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett talks about Mayor Richard M. Daley

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes The Habitat Company's recent projects

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett talks about her career plans

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her corporate board leadership

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett narrates her photographs

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sponsors of 'An Evening with Valerie Jarrett'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Introduction to 'An Evening with Valerie Jarrett'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Michele Norris introduces The Honorable Valerie Jarrett

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Michele Norris greets The Honorable Valerie Jarrett

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Film reel of The Honorable Valerie Jarrett's family background

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her maternal great-grandfather

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her maternal grandfather

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett talks about how her parents met

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes her education

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Film reel of The Honorable Valerie Jarrett's civil service career in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls her transition to the City of Chicago government

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls the impact of Harold Washington's death

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers her redevelopment efforts in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers meeting Barack Obama

Tape: 6 Story: 15 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett talks about the importance of balancing work and family life

Tape: 6 Story: 16 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls her early support for Barack Obama

Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Film reel of The Honorable Valerie Jarrett's foray into national politics

Tape: 6 Story: 18 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett talks about President Barack Obama

Tape: 6 Story: 19 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers Barack Obama's presidential campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 20 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett recalls a moment from President Barack Obama's campaign trail

Tape: 6 Story: 21 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett talks about the political climate in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 22 - The Honorable Valerie Jarrett remembers the death of Trayvon Martin

Tape: 6 Story: 23 - Conclusion of 'An Evening with Valerie Jarrett'

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

10$7

DATitle
The Honorable Valerie Jarrett describes how her upbringing shaped her worldview
The Honorable Valerie Jarrett talks about the redevelopment of Chicago public housing
Transcript
How did you deal with questions of identity as a small child--and well, you were so young in Iran, I don't know if that was a question or not, but (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, part of the reason my parents [HistoryMaker Barbara Bowman and HistoryMaker Dr. James Bowman] moved back here--it didn't really affect me whatsoever, but they felt it was hard to raise this little black child in a Muslim country where people had servants and it was kind of con- they thought I was getting a confused upbringing. I don't, I don't know, I--maybe kids are, they adjust pretty well. I think having grown up in the Middle East and then England and then Hyde Park [Chicago, Illinois], gave me a perspective on the world and a perspective on people that is pretty unique. And my father traveled extensively with us throughout Africa and Mexico and the Far East, and I guess I--and I wish I had the opportunity to do that with my daughter [Laura Jarrett] to the degree my parents did because I think it gives you a sense of self that, you know, the people in the United States would rather think of themselves and the United States as rather self-important. And I think it helps you understand, you know, where you fall in the total scheme of things. But I also think it gives you a sense of people and that they really are pretty similar the world over, and I think I am comfortable sitting down talking to, you know, the residents that I work with who live in public housing and connecting with them. And I'm perfectly happy to have a conversation with the leader of the free world, president of the United States. And I think, you know, I've been to villages in the poorest parts of Africa and played with the kids while my father was doing his work. And, you know, I've played with people who were, you know, related to royalty so--and everyone in between. And I think that world-rounded experience certainly shapes you. And it's probably better for other people to say how it shapes you, but it certainly gives you a level of comfort with all kinds of people which I think is important.$I guess, back to the redevelopment, I remember in the mid-'90s [1990s], Chicago housing coalition, a lot of groups, there was a lot of demonstrations outside of Cabrini [Cabrini-Green Homes, Chicago, Illinois] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yep, yes.$$--people, the community was in a flux as to what should be done--$$Yes.$$--with those high rise units.$$Huge fights. We had demonstrations, we had lawsuits, we had everything you can think of. And last week, we were at Cabrini for a groundbreaking for the new redevelopment of the onsite at Cabrini that's being done by a developer here in town. And I was asked to give a speech, and I said, you know, I started working on Cabrini in 1991, and so the moral of the story is if you live long enough and you are tenacious and you have a dream, you know, magic can actually happen. And I think, you know, we had lots of problems along the way, but the one thing we continued to do was to talk to one another and the residents who, you know, I remember meeting with in there in the mid-'90s [1990s] in the dead of winter in their office haggling over all kinds of issues were the same ones who were there, you know, all standing together last week. And, you know, I feel like we've grown up together, and if you think about over a fifteen-year period, eventually, if you're patient, you get to a really good place. And I think the residents forced us to really think hard about what was important to them, and we forced them to say, you know, you're not in isolation anymore. You're part of a community, and it can't just be what's in your--what you think is in your best interest. We've got to look at it as a community as a whole. And so, in the end, it was a love fest, and it was a--it's a better development having had that friction. Do I wish it hadn't taken as long? Of course, I do. But I think sometimes things take a long time. If I look at, you know, the neighborhood around North Kenwood-Oakland [Chicago, Illinois]. When I started the planning commissioner, as a planning commissioner, this is, you know, the neighborhood like 47th [Street] to 39th [Street], the lake [Lake Michigan] to Cottage [Cottage Grove Avenue], 70 percent of the land was vacant in that community. And 50 percent of what was vacant was owned by the city. And everyone said, well, it's a terrible neighborhood. Well, I'd grown up at 49th [Street] and Greenwood [Avenue], and I can remember driving down 47th Street and only looking south and never looking north. And I can remember thinking, well, why is there this invisible line on 47th Street, you know. And how could it be so close to South Kenwood [Chicago, Illinois] and be perceived so poorly. And so I looked at that vacant land as potential. I said, well, if the city controls all that land, you know, we can help rebuild the community. And if you drive through the neighborhood today, it doesn't look a thing like it did fifteen years ago. And, but it required, you know, community hearings and community input and a lot of back and forth, and in the end I think, again, you make a far healthier community having heard all the voices as opposed to just one. And that's what I really enjoy. That's the community process that I enjoy, and I think what ties it back to my [maternal] grandfather [Robert Rochon Taylor] is that he really believed that public housing should be woven back into the urban fabric and that there should be--it should be temporary. It should be a place for you to go when times are tough and you need to get back on your feet. But while you're there, he was a strong believer in requiring a sense of responsibility.