Anyone who had met Elaine Chao at a young age would never believe she would grow up to become one of the top figures in the American government. At that time, she had just moved with her family to the United States and could speak no English. According to her, nobody paid her and her sisters any attention because they did not consider them to be worth their time. Thankfully, their parents taught them to be adventurous in their thinking and to work towards achieving things bigger than their imagination.
Elaine lived daily with this in mind and eventually worked her way into different top positions in both government and non-government organizations in America. She has served different American presidents in different capacities, currently holding the position of United States Secretary of Transportation under the Trump Administration.
Elaine Chao Immigrated to the United States When She Was Eight
Elaine Lan Chao was born on March 26, 1953, in Taipei, Taiwan. She is the first of six children to Ruth Mulan Chu and James S.C. Chao. Her sisters are Jeannette, May, Christine, Grace, and Angela. Chao’s mother was a historian who passed on in 2007 while her father is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded Foremost Maritime Corporation, later known as the Foremost Group, a shipping, trading, and finance enterprise based in New York.
Elaine’s parents met for the first time in Shanghai when her mother relocated there alongside her family during World War II. The duo eventually moved to Taiwan separately in 1949 when the Chinese Civil War was at its peak. They tied the knot in 1950 and in 1958, James moved to New York after receiving a scholarship. Three years later, Elaine, who was 8 years old at the time, her mother, and two of her younger sisters, immigrated to the U.S. on a cargo ship.
She Became a Citizen of the Country at Nineteen
Elaine Chao acquired her kindergarten and first-grade education at Tsai Hsing Elementary School in Taipei. She would later continue her studies at Syosset High School in Syosset, New York before attending Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
By the time she turned 19, Elaine became a naturalized citizen of the United States of America as she would go on to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics in 1975 from Mount Holyoke College. In 1979, she bagged an MBA degree from Harvard Business School. So far, the intelligent lady has been awarded 37 honorary doctorates.
Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell Met on a Blind Date
Elaine Chao and Mitch McConnell met in the early 1990s through Stuart Bloch, a mutual friend of the pair who was married Julia Chang Bloch, a Chinese American and a future U.S. Ambassador to Nepal who served as a mentor to Chao.
For reasons best known to Stuart Bloch, he decided to fix up his friend McConnell, inviting him and Chao to a candlelight dinner at his home. Elaine was at the time an appointee of the Bush administration. She also had a suitor named C. Boyden Gray who was employed at the White House. But as fate would have it, her connection with Mitch grew and she stuck with him.
She isn’t the First Wife of the Senior United State Senator from Kentucky
Before Elaine Chao became known as the wife of the popular American politician who is the current Senate majority leader, he was married to Sherrill Redmon. The union lasted from 1968 to 1980, a time during which the couple had three children.
Elaine got married to Mitch McConnell on February 6, 1993. The couple have no kids of their own other than her husband’s three children from his previous marriage. Speaking during an interview with CNN, Elaine revealed that she regrets not having children sometimes. She further advised young women to make a balance between two desirable but incompatible wants.
Chao’s Career in Public Service Dates Back to the Presidency of Ronald Reagan
Prior to getting into public service, Elaine Chao served as Vice President for syndications at Bank of America Capital Markets Group in San Francisco, California. She also worked for four years as an International Banker at Citicorp, New York.
In 1983, when President Ronald Reagan was in power, Elaine became a White House Fellow. This made it possible for her to be appointed as Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration in the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1986. She also held the position of Chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission from 1988 to 1989.
During President George H. W. Bush’s first year in office, he nominated Elaine Chao to serve in the capacity of Deputy Secretary of Transportation, a position in which she held from 1989 to 1991 before becoming the Director of the Peace Corps from 1991 to 1992. Thus, Elaine Chao became the first Asian Pacific American to ever serve in any of the above-mentioned capacities.
As a result of her service under the administration of President George H.W. Bush, Elaine got a chance to work as President and CEO of United Way of America. She was a Distinguished Fellow with The Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. from 1996 until she was appointed as Secretary of Labor in 2001. She was also among the board members of the Independent Women’s Forum.
Elaine Chao Has Served as the United States Secretary of Transportation Since January 2017
— Sec. Elaine Chao (@SecElaineChao) January 31, 2017
Following her appointment as U.S. Secretary of Labor in 2001, Elaine Chao served until 2009, becoming the only cabinet member in the administration of George W. Bush to serve all through his eight-year tenure, as well as the longest-serving Secretary of Labor.
After the end of Bush’s administration, Elaine went back to the Heritage Foundation and also served as a director on various corporate and non-profit boards. In addition, she also contributed to a number of media outlets, including Fox News.
For the quality of work she had rendered in the public sector, Elaine Chao was given the Woodrow Wilson Award in June 2011. Until she became the United States Secretary of Transportation on January 31, 2017, under the administration of President Donald Trump, she was a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute.