EVP, External Affairs
The Obama Foundation
Location: Cook County
Year Founded: 2014
Industry Group Specific: Museums/Culture
Michael Strautmanis’ entrepreneurial story began when he moved as a child from the South Side to the North Side of Chicago. “I spent my childhood between two worlds, separated by race in segregated Chicago,” he said. “I grew up experiencing a sense of belonging and alienation in both zip codes.”
As a young man, he met two talented young professionals who shared his drive to create a better world. “Barack and Michelle Obama went from mentors to friends as I began my career,” said Strautmanis. After shifting into a career in national politics, Strautmanis joined Obama as a handful of advisors who helped shape his journey and agenda.
Today, Strautmanis is the head of external affairs and the executive vice president for The Obama Foundation. “I have been here since the beginning, bringing people-centered engagement into the development of the Obama Presidential Center, our leadership development programming and the movement known as the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance,” said Strautmanis. “Through it all, I use storytelling, active listening and movement building to allow a dialogue that brings the best thinking and innovation into the decision-making of one of our world’s pre-eminent social impact institutions.”
The Obama Foundation operates with a mission to inspire, empower and connect people to change their world. The organization supports and connects value-based changemakers around the globe by working to create a world where girls have equal opportunities to purse their dreams through access to education and by fostering safe and supportive communities where young men of color have clear pathways to opportunity.
In his role, Strautmanis is in dialogue with Chicagoans from every walk of life who are looking to learn more about the foundation’s mission. He has built the foundation’s impact agenda to create an anchor institution that will catalyze economic renewal on the south side of Chicago and develop the city’s next generation of leaders.
As an active member of the community, Strautmanis serves on the board of EversideHealth, Inc. the Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative, the Billie Jean King Leadership Institute, the Illinois Finance Authority and Headspace Health.
“One of the most remarkable aspects of Mike’s journey is his unwavering dedication to creating a more equitable world,” said his colleagues. “He has tirelessly advocated for social justice, equality and community empowerment; his work isn’t just about business success – it’s about using the platform to uplift others and champion causes that matter.”
For positively impacting the empowerment of others, Strautmanis has been named a Titan 100.
My executive assistant tells me that my superpower is to make people feel comfortable, heard and empowered through authentic and active listening. I like that one!