The University and the Presidency

Former Lecturer Barack Obama Wins Presidency

Hundreds of students, faculty, and staff filled Hutchinson Commons on election night to watch Barack Obama speak his first words as President-Elect of the United States. On a giant screen, those in attendance saw the future 44th President, the former Senior Lecturer in the Law School, and the familiar face from the local barber shop. They watched Michelle Obama, a Vice President of the Medical Center and former head of the University Community Service Center, join him. They applauded as the Obama girls, Laboratory Schools students, took the stage. “We are proud that a family with close ties to the University will occupy the White House,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “The Obamas have made lasting contributions to the University and to Chicago’s South Side.” 
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Michelle Obama Leaves Medical Center for White House

Michelle Obama resigned her leadership post at the Medical Center to take on her new role as the nation’s First Lady. As Vice President for Community and External Affairs, she was responsible for all programs and initiatives that involved relationships between the Medical Center and the community, and managed the Medical Center’s business diversity program. Obama worked on volunteer programs in the hospitals and in the community, community-based health education conducted by physicians, and the Adopt-a-School initiative. Under her leadership, the number of hospital employees serving in the community increased nearly fivefold, while community members volunteering in the hospital nearly quadrupled. Obama also helped create the South Side Health Collaborative, which finds “medical homes” for residents of the South Side who lack ready access to primary care; it became a major pillar of the Urban Health Initiative.
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Nate Silver, from Statistician to Star Analyst

During the 2008 election, he was called a “wunderkind” by the New York Timesand declared “seemingly infallible” by political pundits across the country. The man in question was not Barack Obama, but Nate Silver, AB’00, whose uncannily precise predictions of Obama’s ascent took the 30-year-old statistician from anonymous blogger to one of the year’s most respected political analysts. Shortly after Silver launched the website FiveThirtyEight.com, it quickly became the go-to resource for tracking presidential politics after his primary polling data proved stunningly accurate. On election day, the site logged four million hits. 
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University Affiliates Work in White House, Washington

From the White House kitchen to the West Wing and beyond, many University and Laboratory Schools alumni and faculty, and others with UChicago ties have found prominent places to work in Washington, DC, during the Obama administration. 
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David Axelrod, AB’76, led Barack Obama’s 2004 Senate campaign and was Obama’s Chief Strategist during the presidential campaign. After the election, he was appointed Senior Advisor to the President.
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Campaign Advisor and Transition Team Co-Chair Valerie B. Jarrett joined the White House staff as Senior Advisor, Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations, and Public Liaison. Jarrett has many personal and professional ties to the University, most recently serving as Chair of the Medical Center’s Board of Trustees and Vice Chair of the University’s Board. 
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Austan Goolsbee, the Robert P. Gwinn Professor in Chicago Booth, was named Staff Director and Chief Economist of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board as well as to the Council of Economic Advisers. 
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Obama selected Arne Duncan, Lab’82, as his Secretary of Education. Duncan was formerly CEO of the Chicago Public Schools.
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Obama also named John Q. Easton, the leader and a founding researcher of the nationally recognized Consortium on Chicago School Research, the new Director of the Institute of Education Sciences, the nation’s engine for educational research, evaluation, assessment, and statistics. 
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Susan Sher, a veteran of the legal staffs of both the University and Medical Center, was named Associate Counsel to the President and later moved to Chief of Staff for First Lady Michelle Obama. 
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Longtime Law School faculty member Cass Sunstein heads the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. 
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Yet another bond was forged between the University and the new administration when Sam Kass, Lab’98, AB’04, became an assistant chef at the White House. He had been a personal chef for the Obamas.
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Many Lab alumni, fresh out of college and eager to work for Obama on his presidential campaign, are now working for federal agencies, in the White House, or in other positions around Washington, DC.
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President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

U.S. President Barack Obama, who spent 12 years as a Senior Lecturer at the Law School, won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. The Norwegian Nobel Committee cited Obama’s multilateral approach to international relations in announcing the prize. “For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman,” the committee announced. “Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
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