Elaine Chao in Her Father’s Eyes

Elaine Chao (middle) and her father Dr. James Chao (right) received and Outstanding Public Service Leadership Award from the Fu Jen Catholic University Alumni Association of New York in August this year. James Chao also received an honorary doctorate in business studies. (Photo by Joseph Hsu via World Journal)

Elaine Chao (middle) and her father Dr. James Chao (right) received an Outstanding Public Service Leadership Award from the Fu Jen Catholic University Alumni Association of New York in August this year. James Chao also received an honorary doctorate in business studies. (Photo by Joseph Hsu via World Journal)

“She is well prepared for the job,” said Dr. James Chao when he talked with the World Journal on Nov. 29 about his daughter Elaine Chao. The younger Chao was just picked by President-elect Donald Trump to be his transportation secretary. The father said that it is his daughter’s honor to be able to serve the country at this critical time. 

“Thanks America for your acceptance and embracing of immigrants. Meanwhile, Hsiao-lan serving in a presidential cabinet position for the second time also shows the contribution of immigrants to this country. It is the combination of Chinese culture and virtues and her own professional training that enables her to do this,” said James, who referred to his daughter by her Chinese name.

“We immigrants also contribute to this country,” said James. “This not only boosts our confidence but also makes us stronger.”

James said the Department of Transportation plays a significant role in the economic development of the U.S. Investing in infrastructure is an important part of President-elect Trump’s policy of “America first.” But before construction starts, the blueprints of nationwide transportation projects have to be assessed. The transportation secretary oversees the whole process from hiring the right people and finding funds to implementation. It is a challenging job.  

But James believes his daughter’s experiences of serving as the deputy administrator of the Maritime Administration in the Department of Transportation, deputy secretary of transportation and two terms as secretary of labor, plus her typical Asian traits of being patient and meticulous, can guarantee her success.  

Elaine had the opportunity to be the secretary of transportation in the George W. Bush administration. But President Bush needed a capable person to help him improve labor training and mend relationships with the unions. And transportation was not the priority then. So she instead went to head the Department of Labor.

Dr. James Chao (Photo by Joe Wei via World Journal)

Dr. James Chao (Photo by Joe Wei via World Journal)

James said as far as he knew, Trump only met Elaine once after he was elected. But the members of his transition team were impressed by Elaine’s knowledge and vision of the transportation system in this country. And Trump himself also trusts her for her professional experiences.

According to the mainstream media, the Trump team had made the decision on the secretary of transportation earlier. But it was announced after several other cabinet positions in order to follow the tradition of the nomination order. The Chao family learned of the nomination on Nov. 28. But they kept silent until it was formally announced.  

James said Trump is a strong leader. He likes to make quick and firm decisions and expects immediate impact. This is in line with Elaine’s characteristics. He said his daughter is always ambitious and transportation secretary is a job she has been waiting for. Now the opportunity arrives. “It’s a high-ranking position. You can make a bigger impact. You can make your family proud while you serve your country. It is a win-win situation. So why not?” said James.

The phone at James’ office in Manhattan was off the hook on the afternoon of Nov. 29. He was flooded by calls from the U.S. and other parts of the world with congratulations. “Representing Hsiao-lan, I thank you for your support,” James said. When he was asked whether he was happy that his daughter has the opportunity to serve in a White House Cabinet again, James said: “Hsiao-lan is lucky. Her father is still alive to witness her achievements.”

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