President Obama looks to longtime fundraiser and philanthropist Penny… (Carolyn Kaster / Associated…)
WASHINGTON – President Obama praised Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker for her commitment to American workers on Thursday morning as he nominated her as his next Commerce secretary.
In a Rose Garden announcement, Obama listed Pritzker’s work on programs to promote job creation and job training as critical experience for the cabinet position.
“She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur,” Obama said. “She knows that what we can do is to give every business and every worker the best possible chance to succeed by making America a magnet for good jobs.”
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Obama also named longtime friend Mike Froman to serve as the next U.S. trade representative. Froman is a former classmate of Obama’s from Harvard Law School and has been an advisor on global economic issues for the White House since the beginning of the Obama administration.
Pritzker is also an old friend. She was one of Obama’s earliest and most important supporters in Chicago, their hometown and home base of the Hyatt Hotels Corp., founded by her family. She ran a record-breaking fundraising operation for Obama’s 2008 campaign and served as co-chair of his 2012 campaign.
But in making the announcements, Obama emphasized the expertise of his two nominees – and, repeatedly, what he said is their commitment to American workers.
He said a top priority of his second term will be creating jobs, helping workers develop the skills they need to earn a decent wage for their work.
He cited Pritzker’s work as a member of his Jobs Council as critical experience. She also was the “driving force” behind Skills for America's Future, he said, referring to a White House initiative to help community colleges equip students with the skills in demand in their regions.
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“Penny understands that, just as great companies strengthen the communities around them, strong communities and skilled workers also help companies thrive,” he said.
Pritzker’s confirmation hearings could raise questions about Hyatt Hotels’ relations with labor unions. The Chicago teachers union has also been critical of Pritzker’s tenure on the Chicago Board of Education.
As he made his latest personnel announcements, Obama spoke to a crowd that included a number of Chicagoans, including White House advisor Valerie Jarrett and former advisor David Axelrod.
Noting that today is Pritzker’s birthday, the president offered best wishes.
“So for your birthday present, you get to go through confirmation,” he said. “It's going to be great.”
Pritzker smiled but didn’t comment.
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