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Name: Chao, Elaine
Current Position: Former Secretary
The first Asian American woman in US history to be appointed to a president’s cabinet, Elaine L. Chao served as the secretary of labor for the entire eight years of George W. Bush’s term in office—the only one of Bush’s original cabinet appointees to survive until the end..
Chao emigrated from Taiwan to the US at the age of eight with no knowledge of English, but went on to receive an undergraduate degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed Chao deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration in the Department of Transportation. From 1988 to 1989, she served as chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission. In 1989, President George H. W. Bush nominated Chao to be deputy secretary of transportation, the number two position in the department. From 1991 to 1992, Chao was director of the Peace Corps. She was the first Asian American to serve in all these positions.
She then took over the leadership of the United Way of America as president and chief executive officer. Chao has also worked in the private sector as vice president of syndications at BankAmerica Capital Markets Group and as a banker with Citicorp. Chao was a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank, until her appointment as secretary of labor.
Chao is married to US Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), leader of the Senate Republicans. In July 2007, Chao made controversial remarks about young workers in a story in Parade magazine. She was quoted as saying, in the context of American jobs being off-shored, “American employees must be punctual, dress appropriately and have good personal hygiene,” said Chao. “They need anger-management and conflict-resolution skills, and they have to be able to accept direction. Too many young people bristle when a supervisor asks them to do something.”
Intelligence Report (by Lyric Wallwork Winik, Parade)
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