Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama
Valerie Jarrett talks about growing up in Iran, studying law school, and switching gears to pursue a rewarding career in politics.
Catharine MacKinnon, Pioneering Legal Scholar
Suzanne Braun Levine, First Editor of Ms. Magazine & Author
- One of the things I did learn from my parents was you should be involved in your community, you should care about what's going on around you, in the world, and, if you see something that troubles you, you should get involved in it.
- My parents were Chinese immigrants. They came as young, recent college graduates from China in 1949. My dad didn't have any sons, but he poured all of the ambition and all of his hopes and dreams into his two daughters. And, my sister and I, I think, grew up really wanting to meet those aspirations. My mother was trained as a chemist, but became a stay at home mom, as so many moms did in the '50 and '60s. When they had kids, she got really involved in trying to make the community that we lived in a better place. And, I think, watching her do that made me want to do the same. It's a value that, I think, is pretty deeply embedded in me.
- I became an officer in the National Organization for Women. We organized marches, we were doing phone banking. I really learned how to do political organizing. I liked being a litigator. I loved being able to help people with their problems. Probably liked it because I like to argue. One of the things I was lucky enough to do throughout my career was what I used to call extracurriculars. I was always involved in women's politics, and a lot of not for profit organizations, which, along the way, I happened to meet a guy who was an up and coming organizer, and his name was Barack Obama.
- Preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
- So help you God?
- So help me God.
- Congratulations, Mr. President.
- First of all, if the President of the United States asks you to come serve, you go serve, because it doesn't happen very often, and it is a really rare opportunity to come to Washington and do things on a scale that will affect the entire country. And, really be part of history. So, I was thrilled to be able to do it. We created a council that involved all of the federal agencies to really make sure that, not only are we addressing the issues that affect women and girls in a central way, on key issues, like violence against women, and women's economic security, and STEM education for girls, but that each individual agency always bears in mind that whatever they do may affect women and girls, and to pay special attention to that.
- To be able to promote the First Lady's agenda, and really bring some national awareness to caring for our kids has been an amazing opportunity to bring a lot of my personal history to bear to the passion I've had for women's issues throughout my career. I think that women are able to see all sides, and we're able to bring those perspectives to a decision-making process in a way that, I think, is collaborative and creative.