Elain Chao, the current US Transportation Secretary, till date remembers how it was when she first stepped in America as an eight-year-old. She recalls, “I didn’t speak English…And it was very hard in the beginning. I remember how vulnerable our community felt at the time, and I think those lessons, those experiences of being on the outside”. She got her citizenship when she was 19.
While in school she had to try very hard whether at using the fork or understanding American culture and music. Her social exclusion, in a way, acted as a boon leading her to be engrossed in studies and school work, a result of which was her outstanding performance all through her academic career. She attended Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts where she did her graduation with a degree in Economics and went to complete her MBA from Harvard Business School. In college, her activities ranged from scholastics to sports. Whether in playing field hockey, horse-riding or being the co-editor in chief of the yearbook, Chao proved her versatility. At Harvard, Chao was the first female student to be elected a class officer and class marshal.
Her stint at Dartmouth College as part of a domestic exchange program to study banking and money put her on a competitive career track. She worked as the Vice President for syndications at Bank of America Capital Markets Group in San Francisco, California, and an International Banker at Citicorp in New York before she joined public service. The course of her life changed when she received the White House Fellowship grant and the opportunity to be one of 12 White House fellows during the Reagan administration.
With George H. W. Bush appointing her director of the Peace Corps in 1991 began her illustrious journey in the Presidential Cabinet and in the White House in various eminent roles. Chao serves as an example to many as she says “”We all have our experiences, which is why I’m really into mentoring young people, especially women, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans — you know, people who are not mainstream America. Because I understand and I remember how hard it was.”
From being a foreigner to becoming an insider of the US Government, she has weathered many a political turmoil with composure and dignity as she stood steadfast in her loyalty and duty towards the nation.
Image credit: elainelchao.com