America Needs Leaders Like Elaine Chao
The Wall Street Journal
By Michelle Park Steel and Young Kim
March 10, 2021
She’s an inspiration to minorities and women and is under baseless attack.
As immigrants to the U.S., we are proud to be among the first Korean-American women to serve in Congress. We have sought, and encouraged others to seek, mentors who broke barriers for women and minorities. Secretary Elaine Chao is one of the women we have looked up to and counted on for guidance and advice throughout our careers.
When she became labor secretary in 2001, the Taiwan-born Ms. Chao was the first Asian-American woman appointed to a president’s cabinet. She is the longest-serving cabinet member since World War II, having also served as President Trump’s transportation secretary. Countless Asian-Americans like us have benefited from her tireless commitment to breaking barriers since she first came to this country on a cargo ship.
As we build on her legacy and help inspire all Americans to achieve their dreams, we find it necessary to confront a disturbing distortion of her record. A barrage of news stories in the past week have highlighted an investigation of her conduct as transportation secretary. The Justice Department closed the probe without action and the ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee concluded that Ms. Chao “followed ethics and financial disclosure rules.” That hasn’t stopped the media from suggesting otherwise.
Rep. Sam Graves, ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who worked directly with Ms. Chao’s Transportation Department, said the results of this investigation showed “this was a complete waste of time and taxpayer resources—and provides yet another unfortunate reminder of the lengths to which partisans will go to attack the achievements of an ideological opponent.”
March is Women’s History Month, as another reminder that we should work together every day to combat discrimination. Women and minorities have struggled for decades to earn the positions their skill, experience, and determination prepared them for. We continue to work every day to combat discrimination. We are proud to serve as part of the most diverse freshman class ever elected to the House. As hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have risen across the U.S., we were honored to introduce and support a resolution condemning such acts.
Americans know that partisan attacks in Washington are commonplace. But this most recent round against Ms. Chao should be left behind, alongside the barriers she has broken for generations of women and countless Asian-Americans who have sought a life of public service.
Mrs. Steel and Mrs. Kim represent California’s 48th and 39th congressional districts, respectively.
Appeared in the March 11, 2021, print edition.