Born in Shiraz, Iran to American parents, Jarrett spent the first five years of her life there before her family moved to London. Jarrett comes from a family of highly influential leftists. In 1983, she married Dr. William Robert Jarrett, son of famed Chicago Sun-Times reporter Vernon Jarrett. Vernon Jarrett was a one time political associate of Communist Party USA activist and Obama mentor Frank Marshall Davis. Jarrett is the great niece of prominent Democratic Party leftist Vernon Jordan and her maternal grandfather was Robert Taylor, the first black chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority. Jarrett is a personal friend of Marilyn Katz who worked with Students for a Democratic Society, the 1960s group that banded radical left youth and students together under the New Left movement.
After graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, Jarrett went to work for Chicago’s first African-American mayor, Democratic Socialists of America-supported Harold Washington. After Washington’s death in 1987, she stayed on under his successor, Richard Daley. In City Hall, she and her colleague Susan Sher, recruited Michelle Robinson, then engaged to Barack Obama and Jarrett quickly melded her way into their lives. In 2004, Jarrett served as Finance Chair for Obama’s 2004 run for the U.S. Senate. In September 2008, Chicago based socialist journal In These Times contributing editor Laura Washington suggested Valerie Jarrett for Urban Development Secretary based on her work as CEO of the Habitat Co. – “a clout-heavy Chicago real estate firm” – and the court-appointed overseer of the city’s massive plan to transform its notoriously decrepit public housing developments. Jarrett served as Senior Advisor to Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and subsequently served as Co-Chair of the Obama-Biden Presidential Transition Team.