Valerie Jarrett Discusses Her Role as Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama

As a senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett says, one quality is critical to her relationship with her boss: trust.

“One of the most important components of being an advisor is trust and having built a strong sense of it over a period of time,” Jarrett told students at the Yale School of Management on October 9.

Jarrett has known Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for 24 years, since the president was a community activist in Chicago and she was former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s chief of staff.

In 2008, Jarrett co-chaired the Obama-Biden transition team. She now oversees the White House Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls.

Yale SOM Dean Ted Snyder and Valerie Jarrett

Jarrett spoke as a Becton Distinguished Visitor under the auspices of Yale SOM’s Leaders Forum lecture series. Her talk was streamed live to member schools in the Global Network for Advanced Management.

Jarrett said that she has developed a broad coalition of partners, including business and community leaders, academics, and advocates, in multiple sectors to help advance Obama’s goals. This coalition helps the administration address a variety of issues, including workers’ rights and pay inequality.

“The key issues are equal pay for equal work; earning a living wage, not just a minimum wage; affordable child care; workplace flexibility; paid leave; and paid sick leave,” Jarrett said. “We’re the only developed country in the world that doesn’t have a paid leave policy.”

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