2015 Gala Keynote Speech

Elaine Chao
Former U. S. Secretary of Labor, The Honorable Elaine Chao

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao
Chair, Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Foundation
24th U. S. Secretary of Labor (2001-2009)

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao is the first Asian Pacific American woman to be appointed to the president’s cabinet in American history.

An immigrant who arrived in America at the age of eight speaking no English, Secretary Chao’s experience transitioning to a new country has motivated her to dedicate most of her professional life to helping others access opportunities in mainstream America.

Under Secretary Chao’s leadership, the Department of Labor made the advancement and inclusion of the Asian Pacific American (APA) community a top priority through its human capital program, compliance assistance efforts and partnership activities including hosting the annual Asian Pacific American Federal Career Advancement Summit and the annual Opportunity Conference.

In 2003, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a part of the U. S. Department of Labor, began reporting the employment data on the Asian Pacific American community as a distinct separate category, a historic first.

Under her tenure, the Department of Labor increased international interactions and exchanges. The Department signed for the first time seven (7) Letters of Understanding with the PRC broadening bilateral exchanges in labor and employment practices, workplace health and safety, core labor standards, unemployment insurance, labor statistics, and private pension programs.

Secretary Chao was a key participant in the Strategic Economic Dialogue, the Cabinet to Cabinet forum between the U. S. and China. In August 2008, Secretary Chao was chosen to chair the U. S. Presidential Delegation to the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Secretary Chao’s distinguished career spanned the public, private and non-profit sectors. She was President and CEO of United Way of America, Director of the Peace Corps, Deputy Secretary of the U. S. Department of Transportation, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. She also worked as Vice President of Syndications at Bank of America and with Citicorp.

The recipient of 35 honorary doctorate degrees, Secretary Chao received her M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and an economics degree from Mt. Holyoke College. She also serves on a number of public and non-profit boards including: News Corp; Wells Fargo; New York Presbyterian Hospital; Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School of Government; Harvard Business School Board of Global Advisors and Board of Dean’s Advisors.

A popular speaker, she is Chair of Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Foundation in honor of her late mother. Secretary Chao is married to the Majority Leader of the United States Senate, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Her website is: www.ElaineLChao.com

Dr. James Chao & The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Foundation and Angela Chao, honored as Philanthropic Trailblazers by ILF