Facts about Elaine Chao
Elaine Chao Biography
Elaine Chao was born in Taiwan; her father, Dr. James Chao, was a sea captain and businessman. He moved the family to America in 1961, when Elaine was a third grader, and they settled in Queens, New York.
Elaine Chao earned an economics degree from Mount Holyoke College in 1975, then graduated from Harvard Business School in 1979. She went to work for the commercial bank Citibank, taking time out to serve as a White House Fellow from 1983-84. After two more years at Citibank she was brought back to Washington by Transporation Secretary Elizabeth Dole to serve as Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration (1986-88).
Chao later served as Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission (1988-89) under President Ronald Reagan, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Transportation under George Bush the elder (1989-91) and Director of the Peace Corps (1991-92). She then served as President and CEO of the United Way (1992-2006) and as a fellow of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation (1996-2001).
Elaine Chao married Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky in 1993; a fellow Republican, he later became Senate Majority Leader, making them one of Washington’s most prominent power couples. Chao returned to government as Secretary of Labor under President George W. Bush, serving from 2001-2009. When Democrat Barack Obama became president in 2009, Chao returned to the Heritage Foundation and became a commentator on Fox News. She joined the board of Wells Fargo Bank in 2011.
Donald Trump was elected to succeed Barack Obama as president in 2016, and he quickly named Elaine Chao to his cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. She served nearly a complete term, but resigned on January 7, 2021, after Trump incited his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol building on the day that Joseph Biden was being confirmed by Congress as Trump’s successor.
Elaine Chao was the first Asian-American woman ever appointed to a presidential cabinet… She was the only member of George W. Bush’s cabinet to serve through his entire eight-year administration… Elaine Chao is Mitch McConnell’s second wife. Chao and McConnell have no children together; she has three stepdaughters from McConnell’s first marriage to Sherrill Redmon (1968–1980).