Hail to the chief and hail to his Queens-raised chief of staff.
Forest Hills native Jacob Lew, an orthodox Jew, was named President Barack Obama’s chief of staff in a ceremony at the White House on January 14. Lew had been serving as director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and now replaces William Daley, who will concentrate his efforts on the president’s re-election campaign.
Lew, 56, grew up on Yellowstone Boulevard and graduated from Forest Hills High School in 1972, where he returned last year to give a commencement speech. And in that speech, Lew said that growing up in Queens set him on the path to the White House.
“In each generation, people come to our five boroughs in search of a better life. They study hard and go to public high schools like Forest Hills. And by never accepting limits and always believing that there’s nothing they can’t do, they find themselves at the top of our biggest companies, filling concert halls and theaters, and – yes – sitting in the Oval Office advising presidents.”
After high school, Lew graduated from Harvard in 1978 and Georgetown University Law Center in 1983. He has two grown children with his wife Ruth and owns a home in Riverdale, the Bronx.
He is a former deputy secretary of state under Secretary Hilary Clinton and had previously served as OMB director for President Bill Clinton, where he helped design Americorps, the national service program. Before moving to the executive branch he worked for former House Speaker Tip O’Neill and Senator Paul Wellstone.
In a statement issued by the White House, President Barack Obama said that Lew, who prefers to be called Jack, has figured prominently in the president’s decision-making process for a number of years.
“Before he served at OMB for me, Jack spent two years running the extremely complex and challenging budget and operations process for Secretary Clinton at the State Department, where his portfolio also included managing the civilian operations in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the president said. “And over the last year, he has weighed in on many of the major foreign policy decisions that we’ve made.”