Valerie Jarrett shared the struggles she faced as she advance from Chicago City Hall to the West Wing, using her power to give a voice to the underrepresented.
The former senior adviser to President Barack Obama spoke about her book “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward” on Feb. 27 in the Ludwick Center.
Jarrett said she worked in City Hall straight out of college for eight years.
Her mother would tell her that she could not believe she had paid so much college tuition to end up working at City Hall, but Jarret knew she wanted to use her voice for gender equity.
Jarrett said her life in Chicago was hard. She had gone through a divorce and was a single mother of color trying to work her way up in city government.
“I thought I was a superwoman, I thought I had real powers and I could be a super hard working mom, a super wife, and I set myself up for failure by having these unrealistic perceptions for myself,” Jarrett said.
Jarrett said it was the early 1990s when she first received Michelle Obama’s resume.
Then Michelle Robinson, she told Jarrett that she wanted to do something meaningful with her life.
Although Jarret was not in a position to hire, she was impressed with Robinson and offered the future first lady a job.
“Women’s voices are beginning to shrink, we have to nurture them, and that is what I did when I met Michelle,” Jarrett said.
When Barack Obama became president, he offered Jarrett a position on his team at the White House.
Jarrett became the family’s personal advisor, and maintained the goal of improving gender equality.
Jarrett said she had been bullied as a child, as a black girl born in Iran with a British accent.
As she grew up, she continued to face the kind of racism and sexism women of color in important positions deal with daily.
According to her new book, Jarret wanted to change that by paving the way for women with encouragement.
Today Jarrett is co-chair of the United State of Women, a national organization with the goal of amplifying the voice of women with the goal of full gender equity.
“We see how many women think they are alone in their struggles and cannot find a way out, said Gabriela Chavarria, member of the World Young Women’s Christian Association of San Gabriel Valley who attended the talk. “But Ms. Jarrett had a message of hope and strength that I wish everyone could hear.”
Jarrett said that in many situations women of color with power are threatening to men and she emphasized that women must pull one another up.
“I think reminding women to cultivate relationships is very important, especially being able to work through the barriers,” said Karen Tinsely, a social work therapist, who attended the talk.
Toward the end of Jarrett’s talk, many hustled to the lobby to get their books signed.
The moderator, Lorraine Ortega, stayed behind to answer additional questions.
“Her book is phenomenal,” Ortega said. “The fact that she really talks about being resilient and never settling for anything other than the best for yourself because as women we fear change, so her book is about being that change.”
Valerie Valadez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.