Right after the 8 minute mark, Chao explains how she went to work for President Ronald Reagan to represent Citigroup in the White House. No seriously. In her own words:
"And then when I was in the middle of working for Citigroup after four years, I had the opportunity, uh, to work at the White House, because Citigroup has a special program. They selected outstanding performers within the bank and gave them an opportunity to support them for a stint in the government."I took the liberty of transcribing most of Chao's 13 minute talk, from when she first talks about her husband to when she introduces her father. We really get to know her. Warning.While is it apparent throughout her talk that Chao is in denial of her own privilege, she kind of really grows on you. Not unlike Claire Underwood. I mean, you'll see what I mean. Consider yourself warned:
"He's a very good husband. He does his own laundry. He cooks. He helps me with the house, too. He's very encouraging of women. And I think it's really important to find someone who is going to be your life partner, because they will help you adapt to your life. And they will help you adapt to your career as well. And so in 1996, I wanted to have a break, so I joined a think tank where I took some time to study and learn more about the American political system. How to get ideas across. Because America is a very confrontational society. You know, people are arguing all the time. So some people are saying this, some people are saying that. And its okay.So there's a lot of fighting back and forth.
And then in 2000, (George) W. Bush was getting rid for his presidential bid, and I had known him before because I had campaigned with his, with him, for his father. And I've known him because he's also from Harvard Business School. Um, President George Bush is class of 1971, I was class of 1979.* So we know each other from that as well.
And you'll be interested to know I actually was supposed to get, I thought, the Department of Transportation. But...Norm Mineta got the Department of Transportation. And so, I was very disappointed. And I think it tells you a lesson in that if your faced with disappointment, number one, you must always think of the long term. So even if it can be a disappointment, don't be discouraged. If you handle the disappointment well, there will be lots of other opportunities. And so indeed I was originally um not offered but indicated that Secretary of Trans...Labor was the position they wanted for me and I wasn't really very familiar um with labor as much as I was familiar with transportation. So I was hoping to be appointed to transportation. But when that did not happen, I was very calm. I thanked the president and his team for considering me. I wished them well in their new administration, thinking I was not going to be a part of it.
And then two weeks afterwards, the president's nominee for the Secretary of Labor position (Linda Chavez)** encountered difficulties in her confirmation hearing. In the United States, the president proposes a Secretary, and then the Congress, the Senate, approves. So the original choice for the Secretary of Labor encountered difficulties in her confirmation process and she had to drop out. So they the White House and the President needed to find a new Secretary of Labor., Someone they trusted. Someone who they know can clear and gain the approval of the Senate, who had no blemish on their record so they can go through the confirmation process very easily, and so they approached me again and asked if I'd be interested in applying, in accepting the position of Secretary of Labor. So that was how I became the Secretary of Labor. So I wasn't the first choice."
"But I think life is so interesting. It's hard to plan every little step. You must plan, but you can't plan every little step. And it's very very hard to um know all the opportunities. So I think the ability to have a good attitude, the ability to always be confident, to be optimistic, and to look ahead, is very important. So when I talk about my career. You know each of the steps, it's very interesting. But I never planned for it. It just happened. Because I was hard-working. I was always trying to do more than what was asked of me, and people noticed. So when the opportunities came, my name always came to the surface, always came to the top. So I think the most important thing is it's important to plan, but you can't plan every step. The most important thing is you have to have inner confidence, that you really like what you're doing. You're interested. So when I first entered Washington, I was interested. I was motivated. I wanted to find out what makes America run. I'm an immigrant to America. I didn't understand the government so that is why I wanted to enter the government. I wanted to see how does the American government work?
And I got in. And then once I got in, one door opened. I went in. And another door opened. I went in there. And another door opened. None of these doors I could have known about from the very beginning because my world at that time was so small. And there were so few Asian-Americans in the government at that time. That there was no guide. No one to tell me what to expect. But what I did find helpful, and this again is what my parents taught me. Is you have to have courage, and interest, and curiosity. I think if there's one thing that my parents taught me a great deal of, it's curiosity. You have to have interest. You have to have curiosity. And if you're curious, you will go on and seek more doors and more open. And these doors will open if you have persistence, if you plan ahead, and if you have the will to proceed. The world is changing so rapidly, so you'll have the same kind of opportunities as well. There's so many opportunities for you. I can't tell you what these opportunities are, but if you have the interest, and you have the will, and you have the confidence, you will have a lot of opportunities.
I really want you to meet my father, because he's really interesting."* President George W. Bush actually graduated from Harvard Business School's Class of 1975.
** Linda Chavez withdrew from consideration for the post of Secretary of Labor after it was revealed she had given Marta Mercado a couple hundred dollars to do household chores for her several years before. At the time of the allegation, Mercado had became a U.S. citizen. The allegation was a leaked by Margaret "Peggy" Zwisler. (Washington Times)
8/16/14 10:54 pm EST Update
At the 28 minute mark, there's another exchange between the game show host and Sec. Chao regarding McConnell. First, about his smile, and then I think she talks about his leadership and integrity. Oh I missed it. Here's something I liked at the 34 minute mark:
"I think the most important thing is (not to) miss an opportunity to forgive yourself, and not be regretful. And look forward. Do not look backward."
8/17/14 2 AM EST Update
If you're still awake, Elaine Chao did a PSA for children. This talk seems less spontaneous than the one above, but it's probably great for the target audience. It's a good thing for kids to see faces like theirs in positions of power.
Chao ends this video with the following advice:
“You know everybody talks about being happy these days. And I guess my secret to you is that happiness comes from you. It doesn’t come from outside, and it doesn’t come from other people. So you have the power to decide within yourself whether you want to be happy or sad. Even when bad things are happening, you have the choice to either handle it well with courage, fortitude or you can just completely give up. So you have that power to either be happy or to be sad. And I would suggest that you always choose to be happy. Be brave when bad things happen. And be able to handle any situation that comes along with great courage and great fortitude. That will make you happy.”