A biography profile photo of Elaine Chao

The Life and Times of Elaine Chao: The Wife, The Leader, The Legend

Elaine Chao is a woman of many talents and achievements. She is the wife of Mitch McConnell, the Republican senator and minority leader of the United States. She is also a former cabinet member, serving as the secretary of transportation under Donald Trump and the secretary of labor under George W. Bush. She is the first Asian American woman to hold both positions, and the only cabinet member to serve all eight years of Bush’s presidency. She is also a successful businesswoman, a philanthropist, and a role model for millions of immigrants and women around the world. In this blog post, we will explore the life and times of Elaine Chao, the wife, the leader, and the legend.

Early Life and Education

Elaine Chao was born on March 26, 1953, in Taipei, Taiwan. Her parents, James and Ruth Chao, were entrepreneurs who owned a shipping company called Foremost Group. Elaine was the eldest of six daughters, and grew up in a wealthy and influential family. When she was eight years old, her family immigrated to the United States, settling in Queens, New York. Elaine did not speak any English when she arrived, but she quickly learned the language and excelled in school. She graduated from Syosset High School on Long Island, and then attended Mount Holyoke College, where she majored in economics and minored in Asian studies. She graduated with honors in 1975, and then earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Harvard Business School in 1979.

Career and Achievements

After graduating from Harvard, Elaine Chao began her career in the financial sector, working for Citicorp, Bank of America, and Bankers Trust. She also served as a White House Fellow in the Reagan administration, and as a vice president of syndications at Bank of America Capital Markets Group. In 1986, she became the deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration in the Department of Transportation, and in 1988, she was appointed as the chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission by President Reagan. She was the first Asian American woman to hold both positions. In 1989, she became the deputy secretary of transportation under President George H. W. Bush, and in 1991, she was named the director of the Peace Corps, where she oversaw the agency’s operations in 90 countries. She was the first Asian American to lead the Peace Corps. In 1992, she resigned from the Peace Corps and joined the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, as a distinguished fellow. In 1993, she married Mitch McConnell, who was then a senator from Kentucky. She became the first Asian American spouse of a U.S. senator. In 1996, she became the president and CEO of the United Way of America, a nonprofit organization that supports charitable causes. She was the first Asian American to lead the United Way. In 2001, she was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the secretary of labor, and was confirmed by the Senate unanimously. She was the first Asian American woman to be a cabinet secretary, and the only cabinet member to serve all eight years of Bush’s presidency. She oversaw the department’s policies and programs on employment, wages, benefits, safety, and training. She also launched initiatives to promote workforce development, job creation, and economic growth. In 2017, she was nominated by President Donald Trump to be the secretary of transportation, and was confirmed by the Senate with a vote of 93 to 6. She was the first Asian American woman to hold that position, and the second woman to do so after Elizabeth Dole. She managed the department’s budget of $87 billion, and its 55,000 employees. She also implemented policies and projects to improve the nation’s infrastructure, mobility, and safety. She resigned from her post in January 2021, citing her disapproval of the Capitol riot by Trump’s supporters.

Controversies and Criticisms

Elaine Chao’s career has not been without controversies and criticisms. She has faced allegations of using her office to benefit her family’s business, the Foremost Group, which has extensive ties to China. She has also been accused of abusing her power to help her husband’s political career, and of misusing her staff and resources for personal tasks and errands. In 2020, a government watchdog found that she violated federal ethics rules by directing her staff to contact the Department of Homeland Security about a work permit for a student who had received a scholarship from her family’s foundation. The watchdog also found that she planned to include her family members in official events and meetings during a trip to China, which was later canceled. The watchdog referred its findings to the Justice Department, which declined to investigate, citing no evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Elaine Chao has denied any wrongdoing, and has defended her actions as appropriate and lawful.

Personal Life and Interests

Elaine Chao has been married to Mitch McConnell since 1993. They have no children together, but McConnell has three children from his previous marriage. They live in Louisville, Kentucky, and Washington, D.C. Elaine Chao is a devout Christian, and attends the Third Presbyterian Church in Louisville. She is also an avid reader, and enjoys books on history, biography, and leadership. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, and can speak some French and Spanish. She is a fan of classical music, and plays the piano and the violin. She also likes to travel, and has visited more than 60 countries. She is a supporter of various charitable and educational causes, and serves on the boards of several organizations, such as the Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Harvard Business School, and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She has received numerous awards and honors for her achievements, such as the Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service, the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and the Order of the Brilliant Star from Taiwan.

Trivia

NameElaine Lan Chao
Age70
Height5’4″
PartnerMitch McConnell (m. 1993)
ChildrenNone
EducationMount Holyoke College (BA), Harvard University (MBA)
Favorite FoodChinese cuisine
Net Worth$30 million
SexFemale
ReligionChristianity
SiblingFive sisters
Favorite TV ShowDownton Abbey
PetNone

Conclusion

Elaine Chao is a remarkable woman who has broken many barriers and achieved many milestones in her life. She is the wife of Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate Republicans. She is also a former cabinet member, serving as the secretary of transportation under Donald Trump and the secretary of labor under George W. Bush. She is the first Asian American woman to hold both positions, and the only cabinet member to serve all eight years of Bush’s presidency. She is also a successful businesswoman, a philanthropist, and a role model for millions of immigrants and women around the world. She is the wife, the leader, and the legend.