Two-time presidential cabinet member Elaine Chao spent her latest visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown thanking the community for its longtime support and batting away questions about the personal attack from Donald Trump that mocked her Asian American identity.
Chao, 69, was Secretary of Labor under George W. Bush, Secretary of Transportation for Trump—and the first Asian American woman in the cabinet.
Throughout her political career, Chao would often travel to San Francisco’s Chinatown as one of the highest-ranking Chinese American figures in the federal government. This past weekend marked the first time since the pandemic that Chao set foot in the historic cultural district, where she stopped by her family’s association and revealed how she’s joined several corporate boards and is trying to help build the first Asian American museum in Washington D.C.
For the main event of her Chinatown visit, Chao was welcomed by Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association President Alisa Lam as the guest of honor.
Chao—who resigned from the Trump cabinet a day after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack—shared how support from San Francisco’s Chinatown kept her grounded and kept bringing her back.
“Now that I have stepped down from my office, I want to return once again,” Chao said Saturday. “I want to thank San Francisco Chinatown, for all your support and encouragement that offered so much comfort to me.”
Chao, an immigrant from Taiwan, spoke fluent Mandarin at the event reserved for Chinese-language media.
And just as she did during a live Fox News interview, she batted away questions about Trump’s recent taunts against her and her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The former president called her “Coco Chow”—a term widely condemned as racist.
Gov. Gavin Newsom also condemned Trump’s name-calling in an interview with the Chinese-language newspaper World Journal.
Instead, Chao urged Asian Americans to rise above the divisive rhetoric by speaking up for themselves and promoting cultural values that help enrich society.
“I say to my fellow Asian Americans, number one: don’t be afraid of the country,” Chao said. “Always be proud of our heritage because now America is more diverse.”
Han Li can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org