At a Glance
- Career History: Co-Chair of President-elect Barack Obama's transition team (November 2008 to January 2009); Chief Executive Officer of The Habitat Company (2007 to 2008); Executive Vice President of The Habitat Company (1995 to 2007); Commissioner of Planning and Development for the city of Chicago (... to 1995)
- Birthday: Nov. 14, 1956
- Hometown: Born in Shiraz, Iran, raised in Chicago, Ill.
- Alma Mater: Stanford University, B.A.; University of Michigan, J.D.
- Spouse: single
- Web site
Path to Power
Like Obama, Jarrett has a somewhat unusual life story, something they bonded over when the two first met in 1991.
Jarrett's father was a doctor, and in the 1950s, he and his wife, Barbara, who is an expert in early childhood development, moved to Shiraz, Iran, about 500 miles south of Tehran. He was part of a program that sent American doctors and agriculture experts to developing nations, and Jarrett was born in 1956 at Nemazee Hospital, the brand-new hospital for which he father worked. They lived in Iran for six years, and moved to England for one year before returned to Chicago and settling in Hyde Park. "I had no awareness of race until we returned to the United States," Jarrett says.
Jarrett served as an unofficial adviser and counselor on just about everything during the course of the 2008 presidential campaign. That hasn't changed since the Obamas have moved into the White House. Jarrett calls Barack Obama "Mr. President" in the West Wing and "Barack" in the more private East Wing.
A friend of nearly 20 years, Jarrett has the privilege of being able to be honest with the president, which was her primary duty during the 2008 campaign. Obama said they talked every day, and she would fly to meet with him whenever she had the time. "She participates in every conversation we have in the campaign," he has said. "She is involved in broad strategic decisions about our message and how we approach the campaign, and she's involved in the details of managing the organization. She's really a great utility player."
Jarrett is most notably friends with Barack and Michelle Obama. They have been friends since Jarrett hired Michelle to work in the Chicago mayor's office in 1991.
She is one of the most connected people in Chicago, and now national, Democratic politics. She is still close to Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, whom she worked with for years, and she counts Chicago entrepreneur Penny Pritzker, Obama's 2008 national finance chair, among her closest friends. She is closely tied into Obama's Chicago network. Her father mentored Eric Whitaker and Anita Blanchard at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Both are good friends with the Obamas, and Blanchard is married to Martin Nesbitt, another close Obama friend, who served as the 2008 campaign treasurer. She served on the board of the University of Chicago Lab School with Michelle Obama, Martin Nesbitt and John W. Rogers, a friend and the former husband of ex-White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers.