The Elixir of Employment: Elaine L. Chao

June 1, 2010Forward Magazine

Elaine L. Chao is one of the most remarkably successful and compellingly thoughtful women that you probably can’t quite place. Which says a lot about her approach to government service, and an equal amount about what we have come to expect from the federal government.

In a Washington, D.C., infected with raging egos and overdosed with steroidal political testosterone, Chao’s focus, in multiple federal and private executive positions, has been a determination to do her job as well as she possibly can. To do otherwise would be to bring discredit to herself, her family and others who, like her, are immigrants who want to do their part to help build their adoptive nation. Nothing in Chao’s career has been about self-aggrandizement. Everything has been about learning, understanding and lubricating the intricate mechanism that can be government at its best.

“My family has always believed in America’s promise of opportunity,” says Chao, who is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington. “As a young banker with Citicorp, I saw that we could conclude a private sector transaction in just a few hours and yet it took months, a roomful of documents, and scores of government lawyers to conclude a transaction involving the government. I couldn’t understand the slow and bureaucratic pace of government and wondered whether there could be a more efficient nexus between the private and public sectors.”

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