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Elaine L. Chao

Former Distinguished Fellow

Elaine L. Chao was a Distinguished Fellow at Hudson Institute, where she worked on jobs and the economy, trade and competitiveness issues. She currently serves as the 18th Secretary for the United States Department of Transportation.

An immigrant who arrived in America at the age of eight speaking no English, Chao became the nation’s 24th Secretary of Labor who served from 2001-2009, the first American woman of Asian heritage to be appointed to a president’s Cabinet in our nation’s history. She is also the longest serving Secretary of Labor since World War II.

As the first U. S. Secretary of Labor in the 21st century, Elaine L. Chao focused on improving the competitiveness of America’s workforce by restructuring department programs to empower workers and modernizing regulations to respond to the realities of the 21st century workplace. Under her leadership, the U.S. Department of Labor achieved record results in protecting the health, safety, wages, and retirement security of the nation’s workforce.

Chao’s distinguished career spans the public, private and non-profit sectors. During her tenure as secretary, the U.S. department achieved record results in workplace health and safety; focused on increasing the competitiveness of America’s workforce; and enforced union financial disclosure reporting requirements for the benefit of rank-and-file workers.

Prior to leading the U. S. Department of Labor, Chao was President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, Director of the Peace Corps, Deputy Secretary of the U. S. Department of Transportation, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, Deputy Maritime Administrator in the U.S. Department of Transportation and White House Fellow. She also worked as vice president at Bank of America in San Francisco and at Citicorp in New York.

Chao received her MBA from the Harvard Business School and a degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College. Recognized with innumerable awards for her contributions to public and community service, Chao is also the recipient of 35 honorary doctorate degrees.

Her website is

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