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Obama advisor Jarrett to speak at Law School commencement

Charles Dharapak/AP
President Barack Obama and senior adviser Valerie Jarrett return to the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 11, 2010, after the president spoke at the Export-Import Bank's Annual Conference in Washington. Buy this photo

BY JOSEPH LICHTERMAN
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 18, 2010

Senior White House Advisor and University Law School alum Valerie Jarrett will deliver this spring’s Law School commencement address.

The ceremony will be held at 2 p.m. on May 8 at Hill Auditorium, one week after President Barack Obama is slated to deliver the University’s spring commencement address.

Jarrett is the head of four departments in the White House, chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls and heads the White House’s business outreach program.

She said in a press release that she is honored to be speaking at the Law School’s commencement.

“I am very excited to return to the Michigan Law campus and congratulate this year’s graduating class,” Jarrett said in the release. “Some of the best times of my life were spent in Ann Arbor, and this is an incredible honor, not just as an alumna, but as somebody who’s very familiar with how much we need these smart, talented and committed scholars to help us confront the many challenges facing our country.”

In an interview yesterday, University President Mary Sue Coleman said she was initially concerned that Obama’s trip to Ann Arbor would prevent Jarrett from delivering the Law School commencement address.

“I just had a little worry when we knew the president was going to come because we put the invitation out to Ms. Jarrett a long time ago too for the Law School," she said. "I was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to do that, but she is, so she is making that commitment.”

Coleman said she's very excited that Jarrett is coming to Ann Arbor.

“What a thrill for our students because she’s been so successful,” Coleman said. “It just sounds like it’s going to be a perfect commencement for everyone.”

Coleman added that having two well-known commencement speakers coming to campus this spring illustrates the University’s prestige.

“It shows the prominence of the University to me,” Coleman said. “I think it’s fabulous.”

Jarrett graduated from the University Law School in 1981 after earning her Bachelor of Arts from Stanford University in 1978.

University Provost Teresa Sullivan said in an interview that having a Law School alum as the commencement speaker would make the ceremony more meaningful for graduates.

“It’s of great interest to the law students who are graduating to see a recent graduate who’s having such an important impact on the country," Sullivan said. “So I think it’s terrific for the School of Law that she is going to be the speaker."

In yesterday's press release, Law School Dean Evan Caminker echoed Sullivan’s sentiment.

“Selection of Jarrett as the Law School commencement speaker continues the school’s tradition of inviting accomplished, high-profile Law School graduates to Ann Arbor to help usher new graduates into the professional world,” Caminker wrote in the statement.

In 2007, Jarrett became president and CEO of the Habitat Company — a private residential property management company with properties in Chicago, Ann Arbor and around the Midwest. She served as the company’s executive vice president for the previous 12 years and has also served on numerous corporate and non-profit boards throughout the Chicago area.

Before that, Jarrett worked for eight years in Chicago's city government, holding a number of positions, such as deputy chief of staff for Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. Prior to serving in the city government, Jarrett practiced law for two different Chicago law firms.

Jarrett was the finance chair for Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign. During Obama’s presidential campaign, she acted as a senior advisor and was co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition Committee.


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