More than a month after the Obama campaign said the president could not lead the Bud Billiken parade and picnic, event organizers and the White House said that Obama deputy assistant Michael Strautmanis would instead serve as grand marshal of Saturday's parade.
The Obamas and Strautmanis have been acquainted since he was a paralegal for Michelle Obama at the Sidley Austin law firm. While serving as chief counsel and deputy chief of staff in Obama's U.S. Senate office, he became an ambassador for key constituencies, such as African-American leaders and unions.
He is now deputy assistant to the president and counselor for strategic engagement to Obama senior advisor Valerie Jarrett.
"I am disappointed that I am unable to serve as Grand Marshal of the Bud Billiken Parade this year, but I am delighted that one of my and Michelle's closest friends and fellow Chicagoan Michael Strautmanis has agreed to serve as this year’s Grand Marshal," President Barack Obama said in a statement today from Chicago Defender Charities Inc, which oversees the parade. "I have been a longtime supporter of and have the utmost respect for the work the Charities do to promote education during the Bud Billiken Parade and year round."
Though organizers had been under the impression the president would be grand marshal for this year's parade, the Obama campaign released a statement in June that said he would be unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict.
"I can't be disappointed. If the boss said that's what it is, that's what it's gonna be,” said Eugene Scott, chairman of the parade and president of Chicago Defender Charities, Inc. The campaign told Scott that Jarrett would also attend this year's parade, he said.
On Saturday, the parade will begin at 10 a.m. near 39th Street and Oakwood Boulevard and wind along Dr. Martin Luther King Drive toward 51st street and Washington Park, according to Chicago Defender Charities, Inc.
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