Few people know the first family as intimately as Valerie Jarrett, longtime friend, personal confidante and senior adviser to President Obama. At a breakfast hosted by Politico at the Democratic National Convention Tuesday, Jarrett shared the inside scoop about the Obamas, their relationship and whether the White House has changed the country's first Black president.
Though he gets teased about the gray hair he didn't have four years ago, Jarrett said Obama's core values, character and moral compass haven't changed, and he's driven every day to move the country forward. He doesn't change depending on his audience. What you see is what you get, his good friend noted.
"His confidence in office has grown, and I think he looks back over the last four years and is very proud of his record and looking forward to another four years," Jarrett said.
Jarrett met the couple 21 years ago when she was recruiting the future first lady for a local government position.
"It was supposed to be a 20-minute interview, and an hour and a half later I realized I was no longer interviewing her, she was interviewing," recalled Jarrett, who offered Mrs. Obama the job on the spot.
Because they were still mired in student debt, the couple, engaged at the time, had to decide whether it was economically feasible for Mrs. Obama to work in the public sector instead of at a big law firm where she'd earn more money. A few days later, she asked Jarrett to meet with them both to discuss the offer.
"I saw the respect and love they had and how the president listened to her and to me. I was impressed by how thoughtful they were and consumed with doing something where they actually added value, and this was a joint decision-making process," Jarrett said.
The president brings that same thoughtfulness to every decision he makes, which is reflected in his management style, she added. He likes to bring together a diverse group of people who have different perspectives. And he listens to everyone but pushes the person with whom he disagrees the most, to ensure that he's really thinking things through, especially when making a very important decision.
In the end, she added, the president is a normal human being who likes to laugh and have dinner with his family every night. Talking to his wife and daughters about their day, not what's happening in the Oval Office, helps balance his responsibilities as America's leader.
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(Photo: Charles Ommanney/Getty Images)