Elaine L. Chao
Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor
Elaine L. Chao was the nation’s 24th
Secretary of Labor, representing a new generation of American
leadership. Since her confirmation by the United States Senate on
January 29, 2001, she has been dedicated to carrying out the
Department of Labor’s mission of inspiring and protecting the
hardworking people of America. She is respected as an effective
and articulate champion of the nation’s contemporary workforce,
acting quickly to focus the Labor Department on the modern
realities of workers’ lives.
When President George W. Bush
nominated Elaine L. Chao, the first Asian-American woman
appointed to a President’s cabinet in U.S. history, he described
her as an individual with “strong executive talent, compassion,
and commitment to helping people build better lives.”
Secretary Chao’s compassionate nature
stems from her own background as an immigrant to this country at
the age of eight. Her family’s experience transitioning to a new
country, supported by one another and the kindness of friends and
neighbors, taught her that encouragement is the key to fostering
independence, and that Americans are naturally compassionate
people. This inspired her to dedicate most of her professional
life to ensuring that people have the opportunity to pursue lives
of dignity and financial independence.
As Director of the Peace Corps, she
was one of the first Americans to personally embrace the people
of the former communist bloc into the family of democratic
nations, establishing Peace Corps programs in the Baltic nations
of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and the newly independent states of
the former Soviet Union. Later, as President and Chief Executive
Officer of United Way of America, she restored public trust and
confidence after the organization was tarnished by mismanagement
and financial abuse, thus preserving the nation’s largest
institution of private charitable giving.
The experience she gained at the
United Way helping communities address their local needs prepared
her to mobilize the Department of Labor to promote pathways to
economic freedom for individuals and families working to achieve
the American Dream. She describes her vision for America’s
workforce as “one in which everyone can participate… where jobs
and opportunities are available for those leaving welfare, job
training is accessible for those left behind, disability never
bars a qualified person from the workplace, and where parents
have an easier time balancing the responsibilities of work and
Secretary Chao’s previous government
career includes serving as the Deputy Secretary at the U.S.
Department of Transportation, Chairman of the Federal Maritime
Commission, and Deputy Maritime Administrator in the U.S.
Department of Transportation. She brings a wealth of business
experience to the post, having worked as Vice President of
Syndications at BankAmerica Capital Markets Group and a banker
with Citicorp. Prior to her nomination as Secretary, she expanded
her study of policy as a Distinguished Fellow at The Heritage
Foundation, a Washington-based public policy research and
educational institute. She was selected as a White House Fellow
Secretary Chao received her M.B.A.
from the Harvard Business School and her undergraduate degree in
economics from Mount Holyoke College. She also studied at M.I.T.,
Dartmouth College, and Columbia University. Active in many
volunteer activities, Secretary Chao has received numerous awards
for her professional accomplishments and community service. She
is the recipient of sixteen honorary doctoral degrees from
colleges and universities across the country.
Secretary Chao is married to United
States Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.