Top Obama advisor to deliver 2010 Drake Lecture

Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama's senior advisors and a Stanford alumna, will deliver this year's St. Clair Drake Memorial Lecture on March 4.

The free, ticketed event will run from 4 to 5 p.m. in Memorial Auditorium, and will be open only to Stanford students, faculty and staff with a Stanford ID. Tickets must be obtained through the ticket office at Tresidder Union beginning Feb. 22. There is a one-ticket limit per ID holder. Alumni interested in attending should contact James Jordan at

The Drake Lecture, sponsored by the Program in African and African American Studies, is dedicated to the memory of Professor St. Clair Drake, an anthropologist and educator who founded the program in 1969. He died in 1990.

Jarrett, who received her BA from Stanford in 1978, was a student in one of Drake’s courses. She has described her time at Stanford as "four of the best years" of her life. She received her JD from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981 before launching into a public service career that led her to a key role in the White House.

"What motivated me to invite her was her story, particularly about how she incorporated her social justice commitments into her professional life," said Michele Elam, director of the Program in African and African American Studies. "So many of our students are deeply interested in issues of equity, in finding ways to make their work have a meaningful impact on society. The career path to that, however, often takes several twists and turns, and Valerie Jarrett's own experience powerfully speaks to that."

Along with serving as a top advisor to Obama, Jarrett also runs the White House offices of Public Engagement, Intergovernmental Affairs and Urban Affairs. She chairs the White House Council on Women and Girls and leads the White House’s business outreach efforts.

Prior to her current position, she served as co-chair of Obama's presidential transition team and was senior advisor to his presidential campaign.

Before joining the Obama administration, Jarrett was president and chief executive officer of The Habitat Company, a Chicago real estate firm. She also was a leader in the civic and business communities of Chicago and directed several corporate and not-for-profit boards.

She also has held several roles in Chicago city government, including deputy chief of staff for Mayor Richard M. Daley and commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development. Before working for the city, Jarrett practiced law with two private law firms.