Obama's Inner Circle

Obama's Inner Circle
ESSENCE.COM Dec, 12, 2008

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Name: Cassandra Butts
Age: 43
New Role: Deputy White House Counsel

Obama Connection: Friends with Obama since they were classmates together at Harvard Law School, Butts served as a domestic policy adviser during his campaign.
Past Life: Butts was previously vice-president for domestic policy at Center for American Progress. She was an adviser to former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, and an election observer in the 2000 Zimbabwe parliamentary elections.
Bio: Butts was born in Brooklyn, and moved to Durham, North Carolina, at age 9. She holds a B.A. in political science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a law degree from Harvard.
Me Time: A car enthusiast, Butts drives a BMW Z3 coupe, of which only just a handful were made.

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Name: Ron Kirk
Age: 54
New Role: United States Trade Representative
Obama Connection: Kirk is a friend of Obama and was a fundraiser for his campaign.
Past Life: The first African-American mayor of Dallas, Texas, Kirk served from 1995 to 2001, before an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate. He is also an attorney with over 20 years of experience counseling governmental and corporate entities. In 2008 The National Law Journal named him one of the “50 Most Influential Minority Lawyers in America.”
Bio: Born in Austin, Texas, Kirk earned his B.A from Austin College and his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.
International Relations: As mayor of Dallas, Kirk called for permanent, normal trade relations with China, saying, “…you’re either part of the global economic community or you’re going to be left out of it.”

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Name: Lisa P. Jackson
Age: 46
New Role: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator
Obama Connection: Jackson is a co-chair of Obama’s EPA transition team.
Past Life: After 16 years with the EPA in Washington and New York, Jackson worked for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection in 2002, rising to head of the department in 2006. In 2008 she became Governor Jon Corzine’s chief of staff.
Bio: A New Orleans native who grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, Jackson holds chemical engineering degrees from both Tulane University and Princeton University. She is married with two sons.
History Maker: Jackson is the first African-American to lead the EPA.

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4 of 12 Reuters

Name: Eric Holder
Age: 57
New Role: Attorney General

Obama Connection: Holder helped lead the search team for Obama’s running mate.
Past Life: Holder was deputy attorney general under Janet Reno, and he also served as a superior court judge, U.S. attorney and prosecutor in the Public Integrity section of the Justice Department.
Bio: Born in the Bronx, New York, to a Barbados immigrant, Holder earned both his B.A. in American history and his law degree from Columbia Law School. He is married to obstetrician Sharon Malone, and the couple has three children.
History Lesson: Holder’s sister-in-law was Vivian Malone, one of two students who integrated the University of Alabama in 1963.

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5 of 12 Corbis

Name: Susan E. Rice
Age: 44
New Role: United Nations Ambassador

Obama Connection: During the Obama campaign, Rice was a senior foreign policy adviser, and she served on his transition team.
Past Life: Under the Clinton Administration, Rice served on the National Security Council and as assistant secretary of state for African Affairs. She was also a senior foreign policy adviser to John Kerry’s presidential campaign.
Bio: Rice grew up in Washington, D.C. She holds an undergraduate degree from Stanford, plus a master’s degree and a doctorate in international relations from New College at Oxford University. She is married with two children.
Family Tree: Although, like Condoleezza Rice, she is an African-American foreign policy expert, the two women are not related.

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Name: Desiree Rogers
Age: 49
New Role: Social Secretary

Obama Connection: A major fund-raiser for his campaign, Rogers is a longtime friend of President-elect Barack Obama and Michelle Obama.
Past Life: Rogers comes to the White House from Allstate Financial, where she served as president of social networking. Before that, she was president of Peoples and North Shore Gas and director of the Illinois Lottery.
Bio: Rogers was born and raised in New Orleans. A prominent leader in Chicago corporate and civic circles, she has an undergraduate degree from Wellesley College and an MBA from Harvard. Her daughter is a student at Yale.
Power Player: Rogers has been named one of the “Top 25 Women to Watch” by Crain’s Chicago Business, as well as one of the “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” and one of the “Top 75 Most Powerful Blacks in Corporate America” by Black Enterprise.

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Name: Rob Nabors
Age: 37
New Role: Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director

Obama Connection: Nabors was the staff director of the House Appropriations Committee, and before that he worked as an adviser in the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Bio: The son of an Army major general, Nabors was born in Fort Dix, New Jersey, but during his childhood he also lived in Germany, Virginia, South Korea, Florida and Italy. He received a degree in government and computer applications from the University of Notre Dame, and a master’s degree in political science from the University of North Carolina.
Personality Spotlight: Despite his young age, Nabors has been commended by Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wisconsin) as someone who “doesn’t take any crap from people.”

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8 of 12 AP Images

Name: Valerie Jarrett
Age: 52
New Role: Senior White House Adviser

Obama Connection: Jarrett met the Obamas when she was a mentor to Michelle, and has been a close friend ever since. She was also an adviser during the campaign.
Past Life: One of the best-connected people in Chicago, Jarrett is the former president and CEO of the Habitat Company, a premier real estate firm. Prior to that she spent eight years in Chicago’s City Hall under mayors Harold Washington and Richard Daley, ending as planning commissioner.
Bio: Born in Shiraz, Iran, where her physician father worked, and where she lived until the age 5, Jarrett and her family spent a year in London before settling in Chicago. She earned a B.A. in psychology from Stanford University, and her law degree from University of Michigan. Following in her mom’s successful footsteps, her daughter is a student at Harvard Law School.
Of Note: Jarrett’s great-grandfather was the first African-American to graduate from M.I.T.; her grandfather was the first Black man to head the Chicago Housing Authority; and her father was the first Black resident at St. Luke’s Hospital.

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9 of 12 Getty Images

Name: Melody Barnes
Age: 44
New Role: Director of the Domestic Policy Council

Obama Connection: Barnes advised President-elect Obama on domestic policy during his campaign, and served on his transition team.
Past Life: Barnes previously served as executive vice-president for policy at the progressive think tank Center for American Progress, and chief counsel to Senator Edward Kennedy on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Bio: The Richmond, Virginia, native received her bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her law degree from the University of Michigan.
Fashion Forward: Barnes was featured on Washingtonian’s “Top Ten Best Dressed Women” list in 2007.

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Name: Michael Strautmanis
Age: 39
New Role: Chief of Staff to the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison

Obama Connection: Strautmanis first met the Obamas when he worked as a paralegal for Michelle Obama at her Chicago law firm. He served as chief counsel and deputy chief of staff to Barack Obama in the United States Senate, as well as chief counsel for his presidential campaign and transition team.
Past Life: Strautmanis served in the Clinton Administration at the U.S. Agency for International Development. After that, he was legislative director and counsel for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s gubernatorial campaign.
Bio: A Chicago native, Strautmanis earned a B.S. and a J.D. from the University of Illinois. He and his wife have three children.
Hero Worship: The father of an autistic child, Strautmanis has done outreach to disability-related organizations about Obama’s agenda to help people with disabilities.

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Name: Mona Sutphen
Age: 40
New Role: Deputy Chief of Staff

Obama Connections: Sutphen is also working on Obama’s transition team.
Past Life: A former U.S. Foreign Service officer, Sutphen served in the Clinton White House at the National Security Council and as managing director with Stonebridge International LLC, a Washington-based consulting firm.
Bio: Of both African-American and Jewish descent, Sutphen holds a B.A. in international relations from Mount Holyoke College, and an M.Sc. in international political community from the London School of Economics. She is married to Clyde Williams, a domestic policy adviser to Hillary Clinton. They have two children.
Book Worm: Sutphen recently coauthored “The Next American Century: How the U.S. Can Thrive as Other Powers Rise.”

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Name: Patrick Gaspard
Age: 41
New Role: Director of the Office of Political Affairs

Obama Connection: Gaspard is on the Obama-Biden transition team, and he served as the national political director for the presidential campaign.
Past Life: Before becoming executive vice-president of politics and legislation for Local 1199, the Service Employee’s International Union’s mid-Atlantic health care labor union, Gaspard was the national field director for America Coming Together. He also worked for Governor Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and numerous congressional candidates.
Bio: Gaspard is Haitian-American, and grew up in New York. Married with two children, he has cited “raising two children of color in America” as his most important accomplishment.
New Blood: With no strong ties to the Clintons, Gaspard is considered one of the few outsiders so far on Obama’s staff.

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