Racial Equity

How Valerie Jarrett Overcame Race, Gender Barriers on Her Way to the West Wing

September 6, 2019  • Aspen Ideas to Go

How did an Iranian-born single mom make her way to the “room where it happened,” ultimately serving as one of the closest advisors to the president of the United States? As the longest running senior advisor to a US president in history, Valerie Jarrett worked with President Obama during his 8 years in office. Before reaching the White House, Jarrett dealt with hardships like a failed marriage and a purposeless job. Still, she went on to break race and gender barriers in the 1970s and 1980s and work on equality for women and girls, civil rights, and our criminal justice system. She chronicles her story in her book “Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward.” In this light-hearted conversation with Jonathan Capehart, opinion writer for The Washington Post, Jarrett gets personal and offers real stories behind some of the most stirring moments of the Obama presidency. 

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