Finding your Voice

"Mom, how did you get to where you are?"

"Why did you choose this profession?"

Perhaps your son or daughter has asked you a version of this question. Maybe what they're trying to get to is finding out something they should , or think about, as they grow their own voice.

This is exactly what Valerie Jarrett's daughter asked her mother at 30. Jarrett is an American businesswoman and former government official. She served as the senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama and assistant to the president for public engagement and intergovernmental affairs from 2009 to 2017. Before that, she served as a co-chair of the Obama–Biden Transition Project. Since March 2021, she has been interim president of the Obama Foundation. You can see how you'd be curious about what path led her to those assignments.

"Well, so my... The reason I wrote the book is, my daughter asked me, when she interviewed me, oh, about three years ago when she was 30, "What would you tell a 30-year-old Valerie Jarrett?" And so when I started reflecting back on who I was at 30, where I had made this ridiculous plan when I came out of college, I'd go right to law school and fall in love and get married and have a baby and have a successful career, and live happily ever after. And when I was 30, all of that was falling apart. Except the baby, the baby was great."

But also, how can one take the task seriously, while keeping a sense of balance. It comes down to using your voice to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

"In the middle of the night after having worked all day. That's the most ridiculous thing in the world. But I think a lot of that I put on myself, I was just trying to be superhuman, and I was dropping balls all over the place. And so when I finally started asking for help and being honest with both myself and being honest with whom I worked about how hard it was, it's really where I start to develop this passion for working families, and how can we make it easier for them, and how could those of us who are in a position to do something speak up for ourselves? And we talked about how the next generation speaks up a lot, and certainly we spoke up more than the prior generation. And so, it's all a work in progress."

These extracts come from an Ellevate Network's interview. Discover Valerie Jarrett's book.

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