A data genius with the depth of a strategist, the charm of a salesman, and the heart of a humanitarian, David Simas ’95, a longtime player in the Obama White House, was rewarded December 19 for his service to the President with the job of CEO of the Obama Foundation.
Groomed by the hardships and warmth of a Portuguese immigrant family making it in America in the second half of the twentieth century, Simas accepted his new appointment with characteristic humility. “In the year ahead, the Obama Foundation will continue the important work of creating a Presidential Center that inspires citizens and communities to take on big challenges,” said the one-time civic leader and activist. “I am honored to be serving the President and First Lady and thrilled to be a part of working to fulfill this mission.”
A native of Taunton, Massachusetts, Simas played a pivotal role as Director of Opinion Research in Obama’s re-election campaign. “David oversaw more data and more information during the 2012 campaign than probably anybody else ever has,” Dan Balz, chief political reporter of the Washington Post and author of a major book on the race, said in a Summer 2014 article in BC Law Magazine. “He was overseeing a huge research operation that was looking at every piece of data they possibly could, and he was a central cog in that whole operation. He was the traffic cop.” Simas said he had never focused on data and polling until he saw its tremendous importance in telling the human stories crucial to the campaign.
Simas most recently served as Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Strategy and Outreach.
His next stop will be Chicago, home of the Obama Foundation, where he will work with Executive Director Robbin Cohen and Chairman Marty Nesbitt. “David is an invaluable addition to our team as we enter an important year for the Foundation,” Nesbitt said. “Together with our neighbors on the South Side, we are going to build a world-class Presidential Center that engages people to make change, and we’re thrilled to have David with us in this endeavor.”
Simas has visited BC Law several times in recent years.
He gave the commencement address in 2015, when he implored graduates to be true to the ethics and values they learned at law school.
As the keynote speaker at the Alumni Assembly meeting in November, 2016, he said that together with the cultural shifts that have occurred because of economic dislocation—resulting in some of the pushback against immigrants and the “silo-ing” of certain populations during the lead-up to the current election season—the nation needs good lawyers more than ever.
“We have a responsibility, given our training and commitment to service, to bridge that divide,” Simas said. “If there’s ever a time to engage…in civic life, it is now.”
Photograph by Christopher Soldt, MTS, BC