ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is All Things Considered. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block. On this Veterans Day, both President Bush and President-elect Obama paid their respects to the men and women of the military. Mr. Bush traveled to New York City and joined veterans in front of the USS Intrepid. The president noted that he will, as he said, miss being commander in chief of such a fabulous group.
SIEGEL: And the president-elect laid a wreath at the foot of the memorial at Chicago's Soldier Field. In a statement, Senator Obama said this: "I promise to work every single day to keep that sacred trust with all who have served." It was his only appearance of the day as Mr. Obama continues to work on his transition to the White House.
BLOCK: And we're going to begin this hour with one of the president-elect's closest advisers, Valerie Jarrett. She's co-chair of Barack Obama's transition team and a longtime friend to both Senator Obama and his wife, Michelle. I asked Valerie Jarrett about the meeting yesterday at the White House and what the president-elect's message was for President Bush.
Ms. VALERIE JARRETT (Co-Chairman, Obama-Biden Transition Project): First of all, I want to say that I think it's a very good sign that President Bush invited President-elect Obama to the White House so soon after the election. It was a very cordial meeting. I think it was an opportunity for President-elect Obama to put clearly on the table the issues that he had emphasized in the course of the campaign: putting people back to work, making sure that we stabilize our economy in the midst of this economic crisis, ensuring that people are not losing their homes as a result of foreclosure, having an infrastructure bill that will also put people to work, and then do the work that we need so desperately for our roads, our bridges, our schools. I think it was a very productive meeting, and it was a good first step.
BLOCK: And the question of whether there was some sort of implicit quid pro quo, in other words President Bush saying, I could go along with aid to the automakers, but we need some movement on this trade bill with Colombia. What about that?
Ms. JARRETT: I wouldn't say that it was a quid pro quo. I think they both had a chance to talk about the issues that are - that they think are important. And I think in the days ahead, we'll see the shape that the bill actually takes.
BLOCK: You said recently that as president, Barack Obama is going to create an Office of Urban Policy. Why is that necessary? What would that office do that's not being done by other departments already?
Ms. JARRETT: I think when you said "other departments," you kind of hit the nail on the head. And what President-elect Obama recognized, that it's really important that we take all of those different agencies and have a comprehensive approach to our urban development. And so having someone in the White House who's going to be an advocate for cities and who can take all the variety of different federal programs and help target them in a logical and systematic way, I think, is part of what President-elect Obama was trying to get at by this position. And for those of us who have worked in city governments across the country, we recognize how invaluable that person will be.
BLOCK: Should we be expecting Barack Obama as president in January to start signing executive orders that would overturn some of the policies of President Bush? Policies like embryonic stem cell research, restrictions on abortion counseling, oil and gas drilling, things like that.
Ms. JARRETT: I think that what you heard very early on in the campaign is - when he was Senator Obama - was a clear message that the first assignment that he will give his attorney general is to look back through all of the executive orders that were signed under President Bush and determine which ones need to be revoked immediately. So, yes, that would be a top priority as well.
BLOCK: There was a striking scene yesterday at the White House of President Bush and President-elect Obama side by side walking down the White House colonnade before their meeting. It was really a dramatic visual representation of this upcoming and historic transfer of power. What were your thoughts as you watched those images?
Ms. JARRETT: Well, I would say, on a very personal note, I am really very moved by President-elect Obama's accomplishment. And I think his ability to win this election, despite the odds that he started, and to engage people who've never been involved in the process before and have them come out in record numbers and vote for his candidacy, it's something that I think all of America should be so deeply moved and heartened by. And I think it so - speaks so well of our future as a country.
BLOCK: Where were you watching?
Ms. JARRETT: I was watching from the television. I'm here in Chicago, so I just looked at it on television. And it was just - it moved me to tears. But I cry all the time, so. But - and certainly in the last week, I have shed a lot of tears. And it's really - it's not even so much about Barack Obama. As proud as I am of him as my friend and Michelle and, I think, what they will be able to do for our country, but I also just feel so good about our country.
And we were here in Grant Park the night of the election, and I watched strangers hugging one another. People who'd never met before. And so we need to capture that enthusiasm and that jubilance. And we have to channel it in a constructive direction where everybody can feel that they have a stake at the table and they have a role to play in improving our country.
BLOCK: Valerie Jarrett, thanks very much for talking with us.
Ms. JARRETT: My pleasure, my pleasure. Hope to talk to you soon.
BLOCK: Valerie Jarrett is co-chair of the transition team for Barack Obama.
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