News & Politics

Bringing the Windy City to the Nation’s Capital

With the Obamas now living here, here’s a field guide to their Illinois ties.

Michelle Obama

Title: First Lady

Connections: Former U of Chicago Medical Center vice president for community and external affairs. Former lawyer in Mayor Daley’s city hall, hired by Valerie Jarrett. Mother of former U of Chicago Lab School students. Former member of U of Chicago Lab School board.

Valerie Jarrett

Titles: Senior adviser and assistant to the President for intergovernmental relations and public liaison; First Friend.

Connections: POTUS, FLOTUS confidante. While at Mayor Daley’s city hall, hired Michelle. Cochair of Obama’s presidential transition team. Former board chair of U of Chicago Medical Center, where Michelle worked. Parents live down the street from the Obama Chicago home. Attended U of Chicago Lab School.

David Axelrod

Title: White House senior adviser

Connections: Top strategist for Obama presidential, senate campaigns. Political clients include Rahm Emanuel, Mayor Daley. A public-affairs firm Axelrod founded, ASK Strategies, had a consulting contract with the U of Chicago Medical Center. U of Chicago graduate.

Rahm Emanuel

Title: White House chief of staff

Connections: Washington and Chicago politics; worked with Obama when Emanuel ran the House political operation. David Axelrod is a friend and political adviser.

Desiree Rogers

Title: White House social secretary

Connections: Former Chicago business executive is close friend of POTUS, FLOTUS, and Jarrett. Former wife of John Rogers Jr.

John Rogers Jr.

Title: Friend. Cochair, presidential inauguration committee. Cochair, presidential campaign Illinois finance committee

Connections: Raised down the street from the Obama Chicago home. Grew up with Jarrett. Attended U of Chicago Lab school. Basketball buddy of Michelle’s brother, Craig, at Princeton. Member, U of Chicago board, U of Chicago Lab School board.

Christina Tchen

Title: White House director of public liaison. Connections: Jarrett friend. Served on U of Chicago Medical Center board.

Arne Duncan

Title: Secretary of Education

Connections: Raised in Hyde Park. U of Chicago Lab School graduate. Basketball buddy. Former Chicago Public Schools chief.

James Crown

Title: Cochair, presidential campaign Illinois finance committee

Connections: Friend; chair of the U of Chicago Board of Trustees.

Susan Sher

Title: White House associate counsel

Connections: U of Chicago Medical Center vice president for legal and governmental affairs and general counsel. While a corporate counsel in Mayor Daley’s city hall, she passed Michelle’s résumé to Jarrett, who hired her. Former member, U of Chicago Lab School board.

Elena Kagan

Title: Solicitor general

Connections: Friend of the Obamas’ since her days at the U of Chicago law school, where she was on the faculty.

Eric Whitaker

Title: First Friend

Connections: Met Obama at Harvard Law. Campaign-trail, vacation pal. U of Chicago Medical Center executive. Former director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Penny Pritzker

Title: Cochair, presidential inauguration committee; economic transition-team adviser

Connections: Billionaire business mogul was Obama presidential campaign national finance chair. Member, U of Chicago Lab School Board.

Marty Nesbitt

Title: First Friend

Connections: Obama’s presidential campaign treasurer. Campaign-trail, vacation pal. U of Chicago business-school grad and president of the Parking Spot; Pritzker is company board chair. Member, U of Chicago Lab School board. Married to Anita Blanchard, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the U of Chicago Medical Center, who delivered both Obama children.

Cass Sunstein

Title: Administrator, Office of Management and Budget office of information and regulatory affairs

Connections: Informal Obama campaign adviser. Before moving to Harvard last year, taught at the U of Chicago Law School, where Obama was on the faculty. Last summer married Obama adviser Samantha Power.

William Daley

Title: Adviser; cochair, presidential inaugural committee; cochair, transition-team advisory board

Connections: The former Commerce secretary and brother of Chicago mayor Richard Daley was a campaign and transition adviser. Close to Axelrod, Emanuel.

This article first appeared in the February 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here

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