From Hyde Park to the White House

Sandi Jackson reflects on the Obama victory, and the special First Family friendship

On Election Day, Chicago’s seventh ward Alderman Sandi Jackson, a seasoned political strategist, former campaign manager for several Illinois politicians, and presidential appointee in the Clinton administration, says President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign was both painful and exciting. Painful, because her duties as alderman kept her from participating in the campaign, and exciting because watching the Obama family go from Hyde Park to the White House has been for her a fascinating ride, especially given the close relationship she and husband Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-IL) share with Michelle, Barack, and the girls.

How long have you known Michelle and President-elect Barack Obama?

They were at Jesse and my wedding 17 years ago. Jesse and I were showing the kids our wedding video and there was Michelle and Barack sitting on one of the couches. We got married at Jesse’s parent’s home.

Michelle has been very close to our family. She went to high school with Jesse Jr’s oldest sister Santita. I met Michelle through Santita, and we struck up a friendship from there. She and Barack started dating shortly after I met her; that is how he ended up at our wedding. It’s really funny because we attended their wedding as well. When we looked back at old pictures, we laugh at how young we all looked. We’ve been friends ever since.

The rest of the country is curious to learn more about Michelle Obama. What does she mean to you as a friend?

It’s been a great friendship. I love her so much. She is so no nonsense and the kind of friend that every woman would want to have because she is the kind of girlfriend that gives it to you straight. She says what is on her mind, but she says it in a loving and caring way. I really appreciate and respect that. She is like the big sister that I’ve always wished I had.

Since they are close personal friends, how do you feel about Barack becoming president of the United States and Michelle becoming first lady?

Is this really happening? To have our state senator become our senator and now our president is incredibly gratifying. I feel very blessed that it did happen to these folks that are good people. They are friends of ours. We know them to be good, sound citizens. They care so much about the community and our country. We just know they are going to do a great job and we know they are the best suited for this day and in this time to carry this country forward.

It is so special that it is surreal because we know him. We know Michelle. We know the girls. And to see them go from Hyde Park to the White House is the most incredible thing, but also the most wonderful journey. We could not be more proud and I wake up every morning and I pinch myself because I know that only in America could something like this have happened.

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