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Spelman College Commencement

2017 Commencement Address

Valerie Jarrett

Commencement Speaker Valerie JarrettValerie Jarrett, the longest-serving senior adviser to President Barack Obama, has had a consequential impact across the American political, civic and business landscape. Jarrett will share wisdom and perspectives about her leadership roles with 490 graduates of the Spelman College class of 2017 during her Commencement address at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 21, at the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. She will also receive the National Community Service Award at the ceremony.

“As a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and as a leader committed to service, Valerie Jarrett embodies the attributes that inspire Spelman women,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman. “She is adept at leading change. A skilled collaborator, she is able to balance disparate interests and points of view in order to effect meaningful change. We are honored to have Ms. Jarrett as our 130th Commencement speaker.”

Raised in London, Chicago, and Shiraz (Iran), Jarrett oversaw the White House offices of public engagement and international affairs. She also chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls during the Obama administration. Her role involved mobilizing elected officials, business and community leaders, and diverse groups of advocates behind efforts to expand and strengthen access to the middle class, boost American businesses and the U.S. economy, and champion equality and opportunity for all Americans. Jarrett helped President Obama develop a broad coalition of partners to execute a robust agenda through her oversight of the Administration’s advocacy for workplace policies that empower working families; leadership of campaigns to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, and efforts to end sexual assault and reduce gun violence.

Prior to joining the Obama administration, she was co-chair of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team and held leadership positions for The Habitat Company, Chicago’s Transit Board and Department of Planning and Development, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration, the Chicago Stock Exchange, the University of Chicago Medical Center Board of Trustees, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

Jarrett earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stanford University and Juris Doctor from University of Michigan Law School.