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Law school friendship brings Jocelyn Frye to the White House

By A. James Memmott

March 11, 2009 at 7:46am

Michelle Obama has turned to a Harvard Law School connection to help her connect to Washington.

Jocelyn Frye, who graduated from Harvard Law with Obama in 1991, is serving as the first lady’s director of policy and projects.

A native of Washington, Frye comes to the White House from the National Partnership for Women & Families, where she served as general counsel.

Frye also directed the partnership’s Workplace Fairness Program with emphasis on discrimination faced by women of color and women in low-income jobs.

Jocelyn Frye
Jocelyn Frye

In addition to advising the First Lady on policy, Frye is also helping her explore Washington and link to people and institutions there.

The New York Times reports that Frye has helped Obama get to know Howard University, as well as a health clinic for immigrants and a food kitchen for the homeless.

The Times also reports that Obama and Frye were close friends at Harvard where they advocated for more professors of color and spent countless hours exchanging views on a variety of subjects.

“They could almost finish each other’s sentences,” Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree told the Times.

The two lawyers went their separate ways after graduation – Obama back to her native Chicago and Frye to Washington. However, they remained in touch.

In connection with her job at the National Partnership, Frye was a registered federal lobbyist.

The Obama administration rule prohibiting people from working in the fields of policy in which they have lobbied within the last 12 months was waived in Frye’s case.

Though she has been outspoken on issue of discrimination, Frye’s still is more conciliatory than confrontational, the Times reports.

Some of that conciliation may begin at home. While Frye is a Democrat, her husband, Brian Summers, is a Republican.

A political consultant, Summers is former co-pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

He served on the staff of the late Sen. Jesse Helms of North Carolina, and he worked on the presidential campaign of Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor.

While the couple agreed to disagree on the presidential race, Frye did not allow Summers to put a Huckabee sign on their lawn.

“It was not a reflection of household perspective,” she told The Washington Post.

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