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Jarrett sees her job as making sure that  Obama hears a broad range of opinions before he makes his decisions. By virtue of her long friendship with the president and first lady Michelle Obama, Jarrett is unquestionably the staffer closest personally to the boss. After all, she once hired Michelle Robinson for a job at Chicago City Hall even before Robinson married the future president. A graduate of Stanford University and the University of Michigan Law School, Jarrett is a veteran of the Chicago political wars and a trusted intimate of the president. But she leaves no doubt that she is not an automatic "yes" person in the White House. "What the president does is he tends to listen to people who say something that is interesting and he also likes people who disagree with him," she says. And that's where her job comes in. Now 56, Jarrett oversees the Office of Public Engagement and the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. "Those are kind of the outreach offices that bring perspectives to Washington that are outside of Washington, whether it is the governors or the mayors or the state legislators and the attorney generals," she said. "Or whether it is the range of interest groups that we communicate with on a regular basis and ordinary Americans who have thoughts and opinions, too." Describing her job in the second term, Jarrett said, "Part of what I'm supposed to do is bring those ideas into the White House."

This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.

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