tina tchen: well, welcometo the white house. (applause) woo hoo, yes. we are delighted to have youhere, so thank you all for being here. i confess -- i'llexplain my outfit. i'm not usuallydressed like this. i literally, this morningat 9:30, stepped off of air force one, as did valerie,having just returned from
the president and thefirst lady's trip to -- history-making trip to cubaand to argentina, so we just literally came down on theground about 9:30 this morning. so, i'm thrilled that wewere able to make it back in time to be with all of you,because as kalisha and jordan said, this gatheringof young women leaders is a critical part of the unitedstate of women and what we want to do.
before i get to that in aminute, let me just explain the white house council onwomen and girls for those of you who don't knowabout the council. it's one of the firstexecutive actions president obama took back in march of2009, and that was to create this first-ever white housecouncil on women and girls that is -- consists of theheads of every federal agency and ever majorwhite house office. so whether it's thedepartment of defense, the
department oftransportation, the national economic council, thenational security council here at the white house,every major part of the federal government is a partof the white house council on women and girls. it's chaired by valeriejarrett, who you're going to hear from in a moment. i'm the executive director,and so we lead it out of the white house but we reallyoperate through every part
of the government, becausethe president's message to everyone in the federalgovernment when he created the council was thatthinking about the needs of women and girls is somethingyou do and should be doing every day, ineverything that you do. whether you're issuing newhighway policy, whether you're figuring out how tomake sure that health care is delivered to people inthis country, whether you're figuring out, you know, howto conduct our military
overseas, you know, thelives of women and girls, both here in the unitedstates and around the globe, are going to get touchedby what you do, federal government, and so youneed to think about it. and i have to say, i havebeen so amazed from day one when all the cabinetmembers stepped up. you know, we have peoplelike the department of transportation -- i tell thesecretary of this all the time, that i talk about thedepartment of transportation
when i talk about thecouncil of women and girls all the time because, like,would dot be the first thing you thought about when youthought about the council -- about women andgirls' issues? like, no, none of usthink about highways. but in truth of fact, theyhave done an amazing thing at the department oftransportation as an example. you know, they have madesure that they've got
programming for highwaywomen engineers to encourage young women and girls ofcolor to actually become engineers and behighway engineers. they've done stuff -- theywere huge partners with us on anti-trafficking issues,conducting -- you know, bringing in all of thetransportation sector like, you know, bus operatorsand train conductors, and getting them trained throughtheir facility as the department of transportationto spot trafficking on modes
of transportationin the country. so, that's just one exampleof how every one of our agencies, even in the placesyou wouldn't think were the hotbeds of women and girls'issues, have really stepped up in this administrationand done, i think, what we hoped would happen at thebeginning, which was, i used to call it, change the dnaof the federal government so that women and girls' issuesare embedded in that dna. and not like anafterthought, not like
something just one officedoes over here, and if it's a women and girls' issuewe'll go talk to the white house office onwomen and girls. no, it's something that theytake very seriously, so i'm really proud. and that means we've hadachievements across the board, big and small, inall parts of the federal government. now, that's one of thethings we want to celebrate,
are the -- the logo justwent -- what we want to celebrate at the unitedstate of women on may 23rd here in d.c., and that is toreally take account of all the accomplishments of thelast seven and a half years, but more importantly, talkabout what works, what we have learned about what arethe things that work, both at a national and aninternational level, but also what you're maybe doingin your college campus or in your community that works toimprove the lives of women
and girls, not just herein the united states, but around the world, andshowcase what works. i've sort of been tellingpeople, we're done, like, analyzing the problems. we've done a lot ofproblem analysis. let's talk about what worksand let's empower people to take hold of change, andact on what works, and then let's set an agenda forhow we move forward. and young women and yourvoices are just a key part
of how we move forward, sothat's why i was so pleased when jordan and kalisha puttogether our, you know, united state of youngwomen forum today. you are -- this forumdirectly will feed into what we're going to talk about onmay 23rd, and i want to urge you to be vocal onwhat those issues are. so, at the end of yourafternoon, talking about young leaders, i'm reallyproud that jordan and kalisha -- so, our two youngleaders from here at the
council on women andgirls, and -- will lead a conversation with you tosolicit your input on, you know, what's workingout there, what are the questions you have, whatare the things you think we ought to be addressing, notjust on may 23rd but in the remaining time we have untiljanuary of 2017 and beyond, you know, through thisadministration and through the federalgovernment as a whole. they'll be joined by taylorbarnes -- i was going to say
taylor branch for a minute,i was like, taylor barnes -- from civic nation, anotheryoung leader, and kathleen biden, the daughter-in-lawof the vice president. kathleen and taylor areleading an effort at a group called civic nation, whichis a not-for-profit group that is helping conduct theoutreach for the united state of women andthe registration. but taylor and kalisha andjordan, lest you think that's -- they're kind of,like, just doing the work
for everybody else who'smore senior, perhaps, for the summit -- the summit,no, no, no, no, no. they are the core. they are absolutely the coreof how content and speakers and the issues that we'regoing to discuss at the -- at the united state of womenare getting determined. jordan and kalisha areleading that effort. they are the ones who areleading a group of, you know, over half a dozenworking groups across the
taylor is leading theoutreach effort to all of the women and girlsorganizations across the country. so, they are really -- youall should take -- know the embodiment of our leadershiphere and young women's leaders. and so you will be talkingthis afternoon and giving your comments directly tothe people who are making decisions about our futureagenda and about the united
state of women. so i urge you to speak outand speak up, and to also stay in touch withus throughout. this is not just a one-daysession for you here, but the beginning of an ongoingrelationship or the continuation, because irecognize some of you in the room, the continuation of alongstanding relationship with us. so make sure you stay intouch with kalisha and
jordan as you have otherideas or you solicit more ideas from yourfriends at home. go to the website,theunitedstateofwomen.org. you can put input to usthere for the summit, you can sign up for updatesabout the summit. keep watching. that's going to be a pagethat will keep changing as time goes by. and we really want this tobe something that you own
and you can propel forward. so with that, i don't knowif i'm turning it over, or i can take a couple questionsif we've got a few more minutes. okay. so, before i introducevalerie jarrett, she's the part of your next program,i'm happy to take a question or two. you can just jump up fromyour -- from your seat.
right there. nicole rivera: hi. tina tchen: stand upand introduce yourself. nicole rivera: oh, hi. nicole rivera, ilive in california. i wanted to see if you guyswere going to live stream -- tina tchen: yes. so, we will absolutely livestream the event on may 23rd, and as we getcloser,there will
be information. we will not only live streamthe plenary sessions, which will include the presidentand the first lady as part of the plenaries, and thevice president and dr. biden as well, we will alsohave special content that will be only for the livestream audience during the breakout sessions. so there will be anopportunity for live stream audiences to get uniquecontent and also have, we
hope, interactive content. there will be built someinteractive content as well during the courseof may 23rd. so that's a great question. so you -- if you guys wantto organize watch parties, seriously, if you're ona campus, if you're in a community, if you're at awoods, watch parties on may 23, you know, a little breakfrom finals studying, you know, we would love that.
we would love that, and tellus about if you're -- if that's something you'replanning on doing. another question? female speaker: i have one. tina tchen: yes? female speaker: how did youbecome the assistant to the president? no, it's not -- well, imake the part of it short. i do this all thetime with our interns.
i speak every quarter whenour new intern class, and that's the first questionthey always ask. they say, "how do you --"and i always tell people, all right, here's the path,and i can't tell you how to really get tothe white house. because i was a lawyer inchicago, so i was a partner in a big law firm for23 years, you know. but i always did kind ofwomen's politics on the side, and democraticpolitics.
and so, what i can't tellyou is i can't tell you how to, like, just meet aguy with big ears and a funny-looking name back whennobody knew who he was, and become friends with him, andwith his wife, who's also an activist on the issues that,you know, we both cared about, and then all of asudden they go to the white house. and then, they call you andsay, "will you come with us?" that's actually howi got there (laughs).
(laughter) i got here. so, there's no real formula,except for to say what i did -- i mean, the way in whichi got to know them was, you know, i had a -- i had agreat job that i loved doing, corporate law, right? and so, i'm one of the fewpeople who'll stand up here and tell you i actuallyenjoyed doing corporate law at a big law firm.
but part of the way i alsoenjoyed it was that i had this thing that i called myextracurriculars, where i did, you know, all of thework that was my passion around women's issues. i was always very activeon women's issues. i go back to, like, when wewere trying to get the era, you know, in theconstitution in the 1970s, and on pro-choice issues. and i stayed active, andsome of my dearest friends,
like the president and thefirst lady, and my best friends in life,came from that work. so, you know, there are kindof ways to, you know, pursue your passions in lots ofdifferent ways, and that often will lead youto unexpected places. and so with that, with that,i'm going to introduce sort of our next segment. it -- you know, there issomeone who's been with the president even longer thani have and has known the
president and thefirst lady even longer. she's here and has servedas an assistant to the president and asenior adviser. she's also the directorof the office of public engagement and the -- or,the -- she's the senior adviser for the officeof public -- for public engagement and forintergovernmental affairs, which is all the outreachaspects that the president conducts forthe white house.
she's really a dear friend. she's really an outspokenadvocate across the nation and especially here withinthe white house for women and girls, but for allpeople, you know, of diverse backgrounds and needs and,you know, has been at the center of some -- so muchthat we have done to sort of diversify and achieve equityand equality in this last seven and a half years. and she's going to beinterviewed by taylor
trudon, who's the voiceseditor for mtv news, and so i'd now like to bring uptaylor and my dear friend, valerie jarrett. taylor trudon:hello, everyone. there we go. hi, everyone. (talking simultaneously) how are you all doing? good, feelinginspired so far?
i just got out of one of --not a breakout session, but a brainstorm meeting, and iwas just saying that it's really, really amazing to bein a room with so many young and powerful young women whohave such incredible ideas, so i'm really excitedfor the rest of the day. but for now, i am so excitedto be sitting here with she literally just got backfrom cuba, so a little bit of change of weather. but to start off (laughs)march is women's history
month, and recently, thebeginning of this month, you penned a piece for thehuffington post, and in it you wrote, "it's a powerfultime to be a woman." and i couldn't agree more. we can be ceos, scientists,mothers, sometimes all three. and there's still a longway, though, for us to go in terms of women reachingequality, and i'm wondering what steps can youngmillennial women take to ensure that we have accessto every opportunity?
valerie jarrett: well,that's a very good question. and first of all, goodafternoon, everyone. all: good afternoon. valerie jarrett: we aredelighted to have you here at the white house. i know tina welcomed youwarmly, and tina and i have had so much fun over thelast seven-plus years working on issues that areimportant to women and girls. and i always look forward,taylor, to an opportunity to
speak to young women,because i really didn't have that many role models whowere doing what i was doing when i was your age. and so, one of theadvantages of living as long as i have is that then youget to impart advice at every possible opportunity. and so i think the firstthing i would say to young women is that you haveinfinite possibilities, infinite possibilities.
and i think as a youngadult, i didn't think broadly enough, and i waskind of, at the early stages of my career, following apath of least resistance. i went to law school becausei couldn't really figure out what else to do, and thenonce i finished law school, all of these law firmscame and interviewed at my campus, and so iinterviewed there. and i wasn't reallycommitted to practicing law at a law firm, but i justkind of went along, went along.
and i just didn't reallyopen my eyes until i participated in this programin chicago called leadership greater chicago, and itjust opened my eyes to possibilities outside of mylittle comfort zone, whether it was the civic communityor local political environments ornot-for-profits, the museums, the hospitals, theamazing institutions in chicago. and so what i encourage youto do, and it's easier to
do, i think, in a sense,with your generation, is to not look at your career as astraight line and not look at it as though you're goingto go, like -- you know, many people in my parents'generation started at one place and stayed theretheir entire life. you're going to have many,many different opportunities in the course of your life,and i just -- keep your eyes open. opportunity never knockswhen you expect it, and it
frequently does not knock atopportune moments, but make decisions that openthe aperture of your possibilities as opposed tonarrowing them, and then go wherever life takes you. it's an adventure. treat it like an adventure,and i think you'll enjoy it more. and you can't be afraidto off-track, because i certainly -- if i hadn'tleft my law firm and started
working at -- for the mayorof the city of chicago, i certainly wouldn't be herein front of you today, and i would be miserable in thatlaw firm, i would ensure you of that. it's deadly. taylor trudon: so, you'resenior adviser to president obama. you are the chair of thewhite house council on women and girls, and a mom.
what is the secret tojuggling all of these really important roles? valerie jarrett: yes. well, i often say, youcan have it all, but not necessarily allat the same time. and so, part of why it'seasier for me to do what i'm doing now is that mydaughter's 30, and she's -- has a great career, oddlyenough, working at a law firm (laughs).
i could never quitefigure that out. she always loved the lawbetter than i actually did. she's married, so she's offon her own, and so i have the ability to really focusexclusively on my work, which i love desperately. and i think part of what --when my daughter was young, one of the many reasonsi left the law firm was because i wasn't sure thati could get the support i needed to be amom working there.
and it wasn't the hours,but it was the lack of flexibility, and i was asingle mom from the time -- really, from the time mydaughter was about seven months old. and so, you know, if thehalloween parade was coming around and i wasn't there,there was nobody there, and so those kinds of important-- seemingly unimportant but really important moments inyour children's life you want to be there for, and sothe advice i give you is to
make sure that youremployer, whether it's in the private or the publicsector, understands your values. and so, i mentioned thehalloween parade because when i worked for mayordaley -- and he was kind of a scary figure, heintimidated me a lot back then. he still kind of intimidatesme a little even when he's not mayor anymore. but i was in my firstmeeting with him in my job
as his deputy chief ofstaff, and -- i think it was deputy chief. maybe -- actually, you know,it was commissioner of planning and development,and i was making a presentation to him, whichwas my first week or two in that role, and i was therewith a woman who was a corporation counsel wholater introduced me to michelle robinson, butthat's another story. we'll get back tothat in a minute.
and susan, the corporationcounsel, and i were sitting opposite each other. we kept looking at ourwatches while i'm making this presentation, andfinally, the mayor, like, realizes that we're notpaying a lot of attention to what's going on and we'relooking at our watches, and he said, "so, what's upthat you're looking at your watches?" and in this moment of truth,i am telling you, i dug deep
and i thought, well, i couldjust say nothing or i could tell him the truth. and i said, "you know what,the halloween parade starts in 25 -- 20 minutes, andit's 25 minutes away, and susan and i both havesecond-graders." and he looked at us and hesaid, "well, then what are you doing here?" and the relief i feltthat moment, where he was basically recognizing whatwas important in my life,
the most important thing inmy life, and giving me that permission and support ineeded to do it, and in return, i was sounbelievably loyal. i worked really even harderthan i was working before, because he understoodmy priorities. and so i encourage you tonot try to do everything all at one time, because --how many of you are moms? it's hard, isn't it? isn't it, even if you haveall the support in
the world? and i was fortunate, i had-- you know, i was single. my parents liveda block away. my dad took my daughter toschool and picked her up ever single day from nurseryschool until she graduated from high school. even when she had her owndriver's license she was like, "well, whywould i drive? i've got him to take me."
which was nice, too. i thought thatreflected well on her. but even with a lot ofsupport, it's really hard, and i think so many youngmoms, and i was absolutely guilty of this as well,we're so busy trying to prove we can do everything. and you know, those momsthat are making baby food from scratch, it's great ifyou have time, but you know what?
if you don't havetime, it's okay. they're really resilient. my daughter never hadhomemade baby food, i promise you. i had those little jars thati would get, and she was very happy with that. so, accept the fact thatlife is full of trade-offs, and if you want to -- ifyou want to do what my, you know, what my path wasoriginally, if you want to
be partner in a big lawfirm, if you're in the service business, you haveto recognize your schedule is not your own. and so then, that means thatyou're going to have to miss a lot of halloween parades. but if you decide you wantto make a lot of money and be in a high-poweredposition, well then, you're not going to be in the sameposition as women who spend the first two yearswith their children.
neither is wrong. i think -- and we are so-- we sometimes impose judgments on us, or ourfriends impose them, or our families impose them. you have to kind of lookinside yourself, and you've got to figure out what'sright for me, and then ask for help, and recognize --and this is really important -- that your careeris a long career. you do not have to doeverything in, like, the
first three yearsout of school. take your time, it's okay. and i think if you acceptthe fact that it's trade-offs, and if youchoose, as i did, to have a daughter. i had my daughter when iwas 28, i think, and all my friends were still single,and they were going to new york and partying,and i was home. and that's a choice i made,and so i didn't say "woe is
me," because i'm home. and i certainly didn't tryto go to new york every weekend and party, and thenfeel guilty because i wasn't at home with my daughter. i said, okay, you knowwhat, i have this daughter. now she's grown, and allmy friends, their kids are applying to college andi've been through that. i've been through that10-plus years ago. so --
so, you make these choices,is my point, and i think it's really importantto own your choice. own it, and accept it, anddon't bite off so much that you are settingyourself up for failure. and if you do fail, justbrush yourself off, learn from it, and getright back at it. but i know i just decidedi was going to just do everything, and i wasn'tgoing to ask my parents for help, and i wasn't going to,you know, do -- because i
just was superwoman. and at one point, my mothersaid to me, you can't -- you're going to startdropping balls. you'd better askfor some help. and i somehow thought itmade me, i don't know, weak or i wasn't a grown-up mom,and then i realized, you know what? it's kind of nice when mydad takes my daughter to school.
they have a greatrelationship. they bonded in a waythat they wouldn't have. and so, do you get my point? it's like, it's okay tonot have to do everything yourself. but own your decisions,and if you decide to do something, don't let anybodyelse make you feel guilty. if you're staying at homefor five years with your kids because that's what youwant to do, great, because
the generations before youhave worked hard so that you have a choice. if you decide you don't wantto have children, you want to just be totally devotedto your career, don't make anybody feel -- make youfeel guilty for that either. and if you don't let peoplefeel guilty, you'll make better decisions becausethey'll be your decisions, what's good for you. taylor trudon: that is --
valerie jarrett:it's a long answer. i had a lot to sayon that subject. taylor trudon: that's somereally invaluable advice, and i especially like howyou say, you know, don't be afraid to reach out and askfor help when you do need it. i think that's reallyoverlooked at times. but among your many rolesand responsibilities, what does a typical day in thelife of valerie jarrett look like?
valerie jarrett: chaos. and i like it that way. i mean, one of the thingsthat i really do not like is boredom, and i have beenbored in my career when i was in that law firm. oh, my goodness,i was so bored. i didn't enjoyanything about my day. they were all the same,preparing loan agreements for construction loansfor office buildings and
shopping centers and hotels. there's, like, only so manyways you can draft a loan agreement. it's the same four issuesthat are always, like, knotty, and itwas not much fun. and i think what i have --what i learned from that experience is that i like --i like to mix it up in the course of the day, and partof the reason i like my portfolio now is that itreally covers the gamut.
and so one thing i try todo -- although walking over here i said, i reallyflubbed it last week. because i do try to workout early in the morning, because you have todo something for you. and it's, like,my quiet period. i like it when there's noone in the gym but me. i come here, so i can changemy clothes and go right to work. but it kind of groundsyourself and i try to do that in the mornings.
and if i don't come here todo it, i try to do it at home. and then, itcould be anything. i could be doing an eventlike this with women and girls. i could be just returningfrom cuba and argentina with the president andthe first lady. i could be working on avariety of issues, paid leave, workplaceflexibility, child care, making sure that we'regetting guns out of the hands of the people whoshouldn't have them, working
to make sure that peoplehave the ability to avoid unwanted pregnanciesif they want to. we just came out of abriefing on zika, and you may have heard the pope saythat in countries where they have zika, it's okayto use contraception. which is incredible that thepope said that, but he's recognizing how dangerous itcan be if you get pregnant while you've been exposedto the zika disease. and so, i get to work onjust a whole range of issues.
criminal justice is a toppriority for the president's last year in office, andi've been visiting re-entry programs and seeing thechallenges that so many people, particularly womenwho have been victims of sexual assault, and there'sa sexual assault to prison pipeline. and you hear their stories,women who are your ages who already had more trauma thananyone should experience in their lifetime, and they'retrying to get their lives
back and they're justlooking for that second chance. and we, as a society, createenormous barriers to that opportunity. and there's a reason why therecidivism rate is between 45 and 55 percent, becauseit's nearly impossible to get your life back on track. and so, we're working onwhat can we do to make it easier for people who'vepaid their debt to society to get back, and what canwe do to break that early
pipeline so that they don'tend up in the juvenile and then criminal justicesystem to begin with? so you heard just, like, oneday of something i might be doing in thecourse of the day. but i like it, and it getsme out and in touch with such a wide and diverserange of people. and a big part of why i wasso excited about taking on this portfolio when thepresident asked me nearly eight years ago, is becauseit, as you heard tina say,
the central point of it isengagement, is getting fresh new ideas from people allover the country, all over the world, that will push usto make informed decisions. different perspectivesthat we may not have had, different priorities that wemight have thought, well, all right, there is aconsensus for this now and so we can move the needle,and really figuring out -- when you think eight yearsis going to last forever, it's really notthat long of a time.
and so every day and momentis precious, and engaging the american people andengaging a wide range of groups has enabled us, ithink, to make the best decisions. right before you all camein this room we had what we call champions for change,and we've done dozens of them now, where we findfolks around the country, ordinary people who aredoing extraordinary things. and today, we had championsof change for people who've
really helped get folksregistered for the affordable care -- underthe affordable care act. so, 20 million people havehealth insurance for the first time, and we have thisbroad network around the country that wereworking with us on this. and then they were nominatedfrom their communities, and we had 10 people, and wecelebrated their incredible accomplishments. and to have them come to thewhite house and then go back
home, and they have thiscertificate from the white house, and it's terrific. and it's so consistentwith the president's core principle, which is thatchange doesn't begin in washington, itbegins with you. and in order for that towork effectively, we have to be accessible. this really does have tobe the people's house, and that's my job.
my job is to be thatgateway, that open door, that opportunityto engage with us. and so, everyday is different. every day, i meet people whoare remarkable, who teach me things, who push me, somenicely, some not nicely. and that's okay, becausethat's democracy. it's messy, it's sometimespainful, but over the arc of the president's time here, ithink it has enabled us to make betterdecisions for you.
taylor trudon: that's great. as a person who is not amorning person, i really admire your ability to getto the gym in the morning (laughs). valerie jarrett: well, whattime do you go to bed at night? taylor trudon: okay, well -- valerie jarrett: i thinkthere are two kinds -- there are two kinds of people. there are morning people,and there are night people.
i'm a morning person. most morning peopleare not night people. taylor trudon: that's fair. valerie jarrett:isn't that right? and vice versa. taylor trudon: you touchedupon it earlier, about role models and how you didn'thave someone like you growing up to look up to. so when you were young,who did you look up to?
valerie jarrett: well, wheni say i didn't have people like myself, i meant -- forexample, i was the first lawyer in my family. now, my parents, both verywell-educated, but they were academics. my mom started at graduateschool in early childhood education, and my dad wasa physician, and so when i talked about going to law --going to be a lawyer, they really couldn't give me alot of advice because it
wasn't something that waswithin their expertise. but now, what they did do,which was really important, and every young personshould have it, and part of our central mission here isto ensure that we provide an opportunity for all of ouryoung children -- i always say that talentis ubiquitous. opportunity,unfortunately, is not. and so, we're trying to dowhat we can to open up those opportunities.
but because my parents lovedme, and they gave me really unconditional love, enormoussupport, paid for me to go all the way through lawschool, and their only, really, expectation inreturn is that i was going to work really hard, iwas going to care about something, i was goingto follow my passion. and they didn't care whatthat passion was, but they expected me to followit, and that was a very effective role model.
i watched my mom work herentire -- my entire -- really, my entirechildhood, she worked. but she had a rule, which ithen applied to my daughter, which is no matter where shewas or what she was doing, if i called her,they'd come find her. and when i was very young,she was teaching in a preschool, and i'd be onhold for about five minutes while they walked down thehall and pulled her out of her classroom, but shealways came to the phone.
and so i had that same rulewith my daughter, and i think it demystifies work toyoung people and it makes them feel like they have --they can visualize where you are in the course of theday, and that was very cool as well. so i do say my parents weremy role models in terms of teaching me to be a good --not just a good parent, but a good person, to lookbeyond what's in my interest. and i didn't necessarilyknow public service would be
my passion, but i thought myparents lived lives where they did a lot that theythought was making society better. they did it in the academicarena, and i had chosen to do it more in the --in the political arena. but i didn't have a lot ofwomen who were doing what i'm doing now, and so ina sense, it was somewhat liberating because we got tomake our own rules, but i think it would have been alot easier if i could have
said, well, my goodness,what do you do if you are the first senior adviser tothe president of the united states, and what do you-- what are people's expectations of you? and i mean, oftentimespeople early on discounted me because wewere good friends. i've known the president andfirst lady for 25 years now, and i wonder whether if iwas a man, they would have said oh, well, they're justfriends, particularly given
i had a pretty goodcareer before i got here. so there are all kinds ofissues that i would have liked to have talked throughwith someone who had been in my position, and so i spenda lot of time talking to young people, again to mypoint at the beginning, to try to make your path alittle bit easier, because i've learned a lot. i've learned some lessonsthe easy way, some lessons the hard way, but in theend, it worked out pretty well.
taylor trudon: i'd say so. who are your rolemodels or mentors now? valerie jarrett: well, myfriends have become my role models, and i havea lot of friends. and i have this conversationwith one friend in particular where atdifferent points in your life, you can be the mentor,and then they can be the mentor. and in a sense, the bestexample of it is the president. i started out where thefirst lady interviewed for a
job to work in the mayor'soffice when i was there, and i just loved herimmediately. she didn't like her law firmeither, so we bonded on that immediately. she was interested in publicservice, and we had a good 20-minute interview. it was supposedto be 20 minutes. an hour and a half later,i'm offering her a job on the spot and didn't evencheck with my boss, the
mayor, which isprobably not so good. and so, a couple days lateri said to her, "well, what about that offer?" and she said, you know, "myfiancã© does not like the idea." and i was like,"well, why not?" and she says, "well, he'snot so -- you know, he started as a communityorganizer, and he used to be putting pressure ongovernment, and now i'd be inside government, and whatwould happen if he disagreed
with something the mayorwanted to do, or i disagreed? who's going to belooking out for me?" and she said -- i said,"well, does that mean it's a no?" she said, "no, it means thathe would like us to have dinner and let's talk aboutit, the three of us have dinner." i thought, well that's aninteresting job interview.
now i'm the one gettinginterviewed, i get this. but i said, "okay, sure." and so the three of us haddinner, now literally almost 25 years ago. 25 years ago, iguess, june this year. and so in the beginning, iwas their mentor, and i was -- you know, workedon his first campaign. i chaired his financecommittee when he ran for the senate, i was a senioradviser to his campaign when
he ran for president, ico-chaired his transition committee when he came here. and now, suddenly, he's theboss of me, and i remember when he first asked me aboutthe job and i was like, "well, i'm used to, like,being the boss of you." and he said, "yeah, but iwould be the president of the united states" -- -- so, if you've got to havea boss, it's not a bad boss to have, and the samething with the first lady.
and so, i think what'sinteresting is in the course of your life, people who youstarted out mentoring, as they grow up caneasily be your mentors. and one of my best friendsin chicago, he and i have this conversation quiteoften, we have been each other's mentorour entire career. and he has been a strongadvocate for women, and because he's a guy, he'lltell me how guys think. and he'll go, you know,"go in there and ask
for something." but i will say, one woman-- one woman who was very helpful to me, and i willtell you about her in the context of something ithink women do not do well. when i worked in the mayor'soffice, i was -- well, actually, before i joinedthe mayor's office, actually, i was in thecorporation counsel as a lawyer for the city, and ididn't have a title, and i came from the law firm andi was just really doing
complex real-estatetransaction workouts, primarily, for somebig-ticket items that the city had, and she worked inthe mayor's office, and so she was my client. and we would stay up late,and one wonderful thing she did is that she'd come to myhome in the early evenings so i could make dinner formy daughter and put my daughter to bed, and thenwe'd work after my daughter went to bed.
and i realized, she'sgetting a free dinner, wasn't a bad deal. but it was so wonderful thatshe realized i had to get home and put my daughter tobed, and then i was free to work for another few hours. so after about maybe a yearand a half, close to a year and a half, maybe -- noteven that long, maybe. i can't -- i'velost track of time. after i'd been there asubstantial enough period of
time for me to get to knowher really well, she said, "you know, you should reallygo ask for a promotion." and i said, "whatdo you mean?" and she said, "the workyou're doing is far more complex than what youare paid or your title." and i said, "well, i didn'tcome here for a title. i could have stayedin the law firm." and she said, "no, but youshould be supervising more people, and you should --you really should promote
yourself," and it wouldnever in my wildest dreams have occurred to me toask for a promotion. my thought was, when my bossdecided i was worthy of a promotion, he wouldgive it to me, right? and until then, i wouldjust work really hard. and she said, "nonsense. that's nonsense. he's not going to even thinkabout you unless you tell him this is whatyou deserve.
because if you're satisfiedin the cubicle facing the alley, that's where he'sgoing to leave you." "really. you left that nice bigoffice on the 79th floor of the sears tower lookingat lake michigan?" and i said, you know, "buti'm okay in the cubicle." and she said, "you shouldn'tbe okay unless you've decided for some otherreason you can't excel. but if you think you can dobetter, march in there and
ask him for a promotion." well, the reason why she'smy mentor is that i said, you know, fat chance. every week, "haveyou gone in there? have you gone in there? have you asked yet? what are you doing?" and she just gnawed at meuntil finally one day, terrified, i went in there,and i had my list of things
that i had accomplished, and-- he was actually a friend of mine. i don't know why i was sonervous, except i thought he would say no and it wouldbe an awkward, you know, feeling. so i went in and i said,"well, john, i just wanted to talk to you. this -- these are the thingsthat i've been doing. my boss comes to me becauseshe doesn't understand the
complexity," and i --because i had had that experience when i wasin the private sector. and in fact, lucille said,"you don't want to be up here with your boss. you want your bossto report to you." i thought that was crazy,but i said to john, "i think, actually, i know morethan kathy does, and she's coming to me, and i thinki should be a deputy." and i was terrified, and helooked at me and he said,
"okay." and i said, "and i thinki should move in that big office up in the suite byyou that's been empty for a while." and he goes, "no, no, thereare other deputies that have seniority to you." and i go, "well, how abouti just move in until you figure out who gets it?" well, of course,i never moved out.
but my point is, thatdoesn't always happen. it's not always that easy. in retrospect, i probablyshould have asked for the promotion a year earlier. but you've got to be willingto take a little rejection and ask for it. and i've never met a man whodidn't think -- no offense to the few men in the room-- i've never met a man who didn't think he wasabsolutely qualified for a
promotion his firstday on the job. not shy about asking for onewhether they're prepared for it or not, and wecould do a lot better. and thanks to lucille, i hadthe courage to go in there. and who knows, if it hadn'tbeen, i might still be sitting -- i was very happyin that cubicle, but -- -- this is much morecomfortable than that -- -- than that. so speak up for yourself,that's my point.
and let me be that mentor toyou, and that loud voice in your ear when you'rewondering whether you should be brave enough. because if he had said no,my feelings would have been hurt but i could have comeback in another six months and i could have said,"well, tell me what i should do to deserve if if i don'tdeserve it now," and take that feedback not asa rejection but as constructive advice for howyou can -- how you
can be better. it's a really importantlesson to learn, so i shouldn't -- i shouldn't-- i try to always mention lucille, because she did mea huge favor and taught me something -- taught me howto do something that is hard and not intuitive,but important. taylor trudon: i love thatyou talked about that. so, as a person that's aboutfour and a half years into my career, i think i can100 percent say that today,
being with you at the whitehouse among these amazing women, that it's for sureone of the most surreal days of my life and of my career. so i have to ask you, whathas been the most surreal moment of your career,or one of those moments? valerie jarrett: therehave been so many. i mean, really, almost everyday here i pinch myself. and i said to myself earlyon, if it ever gets to be unremarkable,it's time to go.
and so, the magic of workinghere is that you just meet and see people at theseextraordinary moments. i was -- just a littlemoment, but it was really impactful because oftentimesin the federal government -- and i had always sworn i'dnever work for the federal government because i alwaysfelt like it was so removed from what people wereexperiencing on the ground, and having worked in localgovernment i just felt like the federal governmentdidn't care about us, and
they didn't understandus or anything like that. and so, coming here at thefederal government, i try to always keep in touch throughthis engagement with real people. and so i was mentioningearlier, we were -- not to you, but to the prior groupwho was in here -- that we were in milwaukee a coupleweeks ago, and the president had lunch with this man whois 33 and who had been a big republican, supported --didn't support the president
in his first election,actually worked and campaigned for governorromney in the second election, signed up for theaffordable care act because he didn't have insurance,and then got sick, very sick, and at age 33, he'dhad three surgeries. and he said to thepresident, "you know, i was just wrong, andi am so sorry. i apologize for having notappreciated what you were trying to do for america."
and so when you work reallyhard and you take a lot of crap, and people areextremely critical, you're doing it knowing that that'sgoing to happen, but you're taking that long view, andthe president is really good at that. he's taught me, one of themain things i have learned from him is to recognizethat between here and there, there's going to be a lot ofpain along the way, and that part of leadership islearning how to absorb that
pain and understanding thatpeople don't always know the big picture of what you'retrying to accomplish, and that change isterrifying to people. even if it's change forthe good, it can be really scary, and people resistit for reasons that are sometimes irrational,sometimes just the unknown is -- you'd rather havesomething you know than take the chance on the unknownand not necessarily knowing if it'll be better.
and so the magic of our daysare knowing that we're going to meet these people whoselives have been touched by what we've done, or theyhave -- i mean, i'll give you another example. when we were trying torepeal don't ask, don't tell in the president's firstterm, which is the law that prevented people who weregay or lesbian from serving in the military -- well,you could serve, but you couldn't tell anybodyyou were gay, so it was
literally don't ask, don'ttell, and if you did that, then you'd be okay. but i met with severalservicemen and women who came to my office out ofuniform, they had to sneak in, and they told me whattheir lives were like being gay, where you take thisoath of honesty and love of country, and yet theycouldn't even tell people who they really were. and it had such a profoundimpact on me, and made me
work even harder to have itrepealed, and they were so frustrated and so angry withus, because they wanted the president to just signsomething and make it go away. and the president's viewwas, he needed to give time for the military to get onboard, because he thought if he could get them on board,then the lives of our gay servicemembers wouldactually be better than if just abruptly he said,"okay, we're going to let everybody stay.
deal with it." and as a result, in the lastseveral years since it was repealed, you haven't heardany terrible stories about gay servicemen andgay servicewomen. but i was profoundlyaffected by the people who came in and told me theirstories, and so the magic of my day is really when yousee people who are just truly inspirational and whoremind us of why we're here. and so, my best days arewhen people say, keep in
mind, this is why you gaveup whatever you came -- had, to come here and do thison behalf of the people. and i do suppose the daythat the affordable care act passed and we were able tocelebrate it upstairs on the truman balcony and listento everyone tell stories, really, like, stories of howhard it was, and how we just didn't give up. and the president said thatday meant more to him than the election day.
and so, those are the magicmoments that we've had. and there have been,fortunately, many of them. taylor trudon: definitely. and i recently have watchedthe video of the young gentleman who was sick andhow obamacare changed his life -- taylor trudon: -- andit's so, so moving, and a testimony to whatyou were just saying. what is one mistake thatyou've made along the way
throughout your career, andwhat did you learn from it? valerie jarrett: well, ishared the one earlier with you, which is being afraidto speak up for yourself. and i think that i've had somany -- i've had the good fortune of having so manyinteresting, either jobs, or serving on boards, and ithink early on, i often thought my questionswere dumb questions. have you ever had theexperience where you're thinking about something andyou go, that's probably not
a -- that's kindof a dumb question. there are no dumb questions. and i was on a board in theprivate sector once with a gentleman who is one of thewealthiest men in america, and we both joined the boardat the same time, and i felt totally, totally, way outof my league to be on this board with him. and i was sitting in a boardmeeting and thinking about a question, and i thought,no, i can't ask that.
he asked my question. i was like, thatwas my question. and i told him later thatwas my question, and he said, "well, whydidn't you ask it?" and i said, "i don't know,i thought it was a dumb question." and he said, "thereare no dumb questions." and so i think i lacked theconfidence earlier in my career to just -- if you'recurious about something,
it's okay. and i think, i probably wastraumatized in high school, or more likely in lawschool, when some guy laughed at me when i gotcalled on and maybe i didn't have the best answer. and i think you just have tobe resilient, and so those moments of insecurity,you just have to have the courage to overcome them. and to me, that's whatcourage is about.
if you weren't afraid, thenyou wouldn't need courage. and courage is meaning youdig deep and you just go out there and you -- and youput yourself in the path of lightning, as mygrandmother used to say. and i regret when i wasyounger that i didn't do it enough, that i didn't havethe confidence to be like all the guys and just -- imean, in law school, i'd never raise my hand, andreally didn't like it when i got called on.
i was very shy. can you believei was really shy? i mean, painfully shy. my mother would say i'd goto dinner -- we'd go to dinner parties, and she'dsay, "you must turn your head and talk to the personon the other side of you. you just have to." and i was just shy, and ihad to overcome it and i had to learn how to dopublic speaking.
i hated public speaking. and one of the -- and so ishied away from it, and so part of that same lesson ilearned is that if you're not good at something, knowit and then figure out, well, how do iget good at it? and it's just practice. and so, being willingto look at yourself, be self-critical and not shyaway from things that you're uncomfortable doing, ispart of the growth process.
taylor trudon: speaking ofresilience, what has been your hardest dayat the white house? valerie jarrett:well, that's easy. that was really two days. it was the day that we heardabout those 20 young babies and six adults in newtown. and i was in the oval officewhen we found out how many people were killed that day,and i remember the president said 26.
and i said, "26?" he said, "yeah, 20 childrenand six adults," somebody had passed him a note. and i simplycouldn't process it. i mean, i reallycouldn't take it in. and then, a couple of dayslater i went with the president to newtown, andwhen you think about it, it's still so fresh. and they had a memorialservice for all the
families, and the president-- we got in the car, we had to drive from the airport anhour and 10 minutes to where the memorial servicewas being held. and we got in the cartogether and he looks at his speech and, you know, i kindof left him alone while he was reading it. so about two minutes later,he said, "hand me the yellow pad," and i said, "why?" and he said, "i can'tgive that speech.
that's not what i want tosay," and his speechwriters had prepared a speech. and so, for the next hourand 10 minutes, he took out, and handwritten on a yellowpad, wrote from the heart what he wanted to say. and just think about it,what do you say to people two days after theirchildren have been murdered? or even to the adults, whojust two days earlier had lost their loved ones?
and he found the wordsto really just not only recognize theirextraordinary pain, but also celebrate their sense ofcommunity and resilience. and so, i remember i wasn'teven breathing in the car because i didn't want todistract him from what he was writing. and he finished it as wepulled up, he hands it to one of his staff and hesaid, "have this typed up. that's going tobe my speech."
so, he never read it againfrom the time he wrote it. and then he went around andmet with every family that was there. and i am telling you, as wewould walk in the room, i had to just steel myselfas a mom to what that experience would be. and he took his time, and hetalked to all of them, and i followed behind him andtalked to the families. he talked to thefirst responders.
and too often, we ignorethe trauma that our first responders go through, butjust painfully imagine for a second what it must havebeen like for them to arrive on the scene. the governor was there, whorealized when all of the parents had picked up theirchildren, the parents were -- when the children cameto this auditorium, parents reunited with theirchildren, and then you're left with 20sets of parents.
and the governor realizedthat he was going to be the one who had to tellthem what had happened. he wasn't prepared for that. he still talks about howextraordinarily hard that was. and so, it was -- it was a-- it was a devastating day as a mom, as somebody whowas watching the president try to comfortfamilies and siblings. i remember one young childshowed me a photograph of -- she was a twin -- aphotograph of her with
her brother. it was a real close-up,and you could just see his beautiful eyes. and she wasn't old enough tofully understand what had happened, but she'sbeginning to understand now. and we have maintainedfriendships with many of those folks. and for example, mark bardenhas started sandy hook promise, which is anot-for-profit that helps to
educate how to recognizemental illness in schools, and so he's trying to takehis grief and turn it into something constructive. and that's what's been soheartening, is to see people on the worst day of theirlife, and then see them over the weeks and months andyears that follow, and appreciate the strength thatthey have to choose the path of being responsible formaking society better, as opposed to the path thatjust leads you into the
terrible grief that would betotally understandable for people to have. so it was the worst day byfar, and the relationships that came out of it andour -- and our complete commitment still to doeverything within our power to keep guns out of thehands of people who shouldn't havethem is steadfast. and the fact that they havejoined us in this effort, having gone through theworst possible loss
themselves, is nothingshort of remarkable. taylor trudon: absolutely. thank you so muchfor sharing that.