Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Elaine Lan Chao (Chinese: 趙小蘭, pinyin: Zhào Xiǎolán, Wade-Giles Chao Hsiao-lan; b. March 26, 1953) currently serves as the 24th U.S. Secretary of Labor. She is the first Asian American woman and first Chinese American to be appointed to the federal cabinet.
Childhood and education
Born in Taipei, Taiwan to James S. C. Chao (趙錫成 Zhào Xīchéng), a Shanghainese businessman, and Ruth Mu-lan Chu (朱木蘭 Zhū Mùlán), a historian, Elaine Chao immigrated to the United States at the age of eight. She attended Syosset High School in Long Island, New York.
Chao studied economics at Mount Holyoke College and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. She also studied at MIT, Dartmouth College, and Columbia University. She is the recipient of 20 honorary doctoral degrees from colleges and universities across the country.
After a brief stint as a banker with Citigroup, she was selected as a White House Fellow in 1983, working in the Office of Policy Development. While a vice president with Bank of America's Capital Markets, Chao became involved in fundraising for Republican political candidates in California.
In 1986, Chao returned to Washington D.C. as Deputy Administrator of the US Maritime Administration in the US Department of Transportation. From 1988 to 1989, she was Chairwoman of the U.S. Maritime Commission.
In 1989, President George H. W. Bush nominated Chao to be Deputy Secretary of Transportation, the number two position in the department. From 1991 to 1992, Chao was Director of the Peace Corps, the first Asian American to serve in that position. She expanded Peace Corps' presence in Eastern Europe and Central Asia by establishing the first Peace Corps programs in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and other newly independent countries.
Following her service in the government, Chao worked for four years as President of the United Way of America. She is credited with returning credibility and public trust back to the organization after an embarrassing financial mismanagement scandal. From 1996 until her appointment as Secretary of Labor, Chao was a Distinguished Fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think-tank.
As Labor Secretary, Chao authored and published proposed regulations that would raise the minimum salary for automatic overtime eligibility from $8,060 to $22,100, while exempting almost all white-collar workers earning more than $65,000. The changes would be the first since 1975. Anyone in the armed services would not qualify for overtime. On January 20, 2004, the overdue 2004 spending bill to which Chao's proposals were attached failed to obtain the 60-vote supermajority in the United States Senate needed to end debate and allow a second vote necessary for final passage.
1983: White House Fellow, Office of Policy Development 1986: Deputy Administrator, U.S. Maritime Administration, US Department of Transportation 1988 - 1989: Chairwoman, U.S. Maritime Commission 1989: Deputy Secretary of Transportation 1991 - 1992: Director, Peace Corps 1993 - 1996: President, United Way of America 1996: Distinguished Fellow, Heritage Foundation 2001 - present: Secretary of Labor
All the five children of the Chao family were girls, and four of which are named starting with "Hsiao" (Little):
- Hsiao-lan (小蘭) (Elaine) - Lan means "orchid"
- Hsiao-mei (小美)
- Hsiao-pu (小甫)
- Hsiao-t'ing (小婷)
- An-chi (安吉)
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