How to Convince Barack Obama to Go to a Sorority ‘Pink Ice Ball’

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Jarrett with the president. Photo: Getty Images

The New York Times Magazine's lengthy profile on Valerie Jarrett this coming weekend takes a long look at the way Barack Obama's former campaign adviser and close family friend interacts with the rest of the White House. It's a testy relationship at times, yet also an effective one — and often even more than Rahm Emanuel, it seems that Jarrett is the only one who is sure to have her goals met when she sets her mind to something. This is a holdover from the campaign, when Jarrett was often the last line of offense when trying to convince Obama to do something he didn't want to do. For example, in January of last year, campaign staffers were desperate to get Obama to attend a very important event where more than 2,000 college-educated black women would be in attendance. It was at a moment when Obama's camp was trying to steal the Southern black vote from Hillary Clinton and curb the impression that he was a preppy northern elitist. But Obama was digging in his heels.

The event was the African-American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha's Pink Ice Ball in South Carolina. Here's how it went down:

"I've been to sorority events before," he said. "We're not gonna change anybody's mind." At the day's penultimate event, a rally in Columbia, [three top staffers] pleaded their case to Jarrett, the Obamas' longtime friend and consigliere. When they were finished, Jarrett told them, "We can make that happen," as [Anton] Gunn would recall it. Jarrett informed Michelle of the situation, and when the candidate stepped offstage from the rally, Obama's wife told him he had one last stop to make before they called it a night.

"I told Anton I'm not going to any Pink Ice Ball!" Obama barked.

Then Jarrett glided over to the fuming candidate. Her voice was very quiet and very direct.

"Barack," she said, "you want to win, don't you?"

Scowling, Obama affirmed that he did.

"Well, then. You need to go to Pink Ice."

"And he shuts up," Gunn recalls, "and gets on the bus."


It's unknown whether the Pink Ice Ball was what clinched South Carolina for Obama, where he won by nearly twice the votes Clinton scored. But we'd like to think it was.

The Ultimate Obama Insider [NYT]