10 Things You Didn’t Know About Elaine Chao

February 2, 2017US News & World Report
  1. Elaine Chao was born in Taiwan on March 26, 1953, and moved to the United States when she was 8. The 37-day voyage to New York was “difficult and sometimes terrifying.”
  2. Her father, James S.C. Chao, worked three jobs a day upon arrival in the U.S. and eventually became a shipping magnate, founding the New York-based Foremost Group. He helped Chao learn English.
  3. Chao graduated from Mount Holyoke College and Harvard Business School. She went into banking before transitioning to the federal government in the 1980s.
  4. From 2001 to 2009, Chao served as President George W. Bush’s Labor secretary, becoming the first Asian-American woman appointed to a Cabinet position. She was the only member of Bush’s Cabinet to serve all eight years of his presidency.
  5. Chao was deputy Transportation secretary during President George H.W. Bush’s term, working under Secretary Elizabeth Dole. She also led the Peace Corps and the United Way of America in the 1990s.
  6. As President Donald Trump’s Transportation secretary, Chao will lead the the Department of Transportation’s annual budget of $75 billion and about 60,000 employees. Key considerations in her first year will include infrastructure spending, railroad safety and competition from foreign airlines.
  7. Chao is one of President Donald Trump’s less controversial Cabinet picks, earning praise from Republicans and Democrats alike. “It would be hard to come up with a more qualified nominee than Secretary Chao for this important role,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who heads the committee that reviewed her nomination. “Secretary Chao has repeatedly proven her willingness to roll up her sleeves to address the challenges facing our nation.”
  8. Chao has served on a number of corporate and nonprofit boards, including at Harvard Business School, where a center named for her mother and endowed with $40 million of her family’s fortune was completed in 2016. Three of her sisters also earned their MBAs from Harvard.
  9. Chao is the eldest of six sisters, several of whom have married Wall Street tycoons. Her sister Angela is now the deputy chairman of the Foremost Group.
  10. She married Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 1993, and the couple has no children. An archive at the University of Louisville details the couple’s personal and professional lives.
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