From Home to a New Homeland

WKU Alumni Listen to the Speech by Former U.S. Secretary of Labor

Ming Huang

On September 17, 2016, a special celebration was held in New York In honor of Dr. James Si-Cheng Chao, father of the former U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao. Dr. Chao was the recipient of the Renwen Society of China Institute’s first Lifetime Achievement Award for philanthropy. Eleven WKU alumni (current Kean graduates) and four WKU exchange students were invited to join the celebration. Dr. Chao and his daughter spoke about their family’s immigrant experiences in a talk entitled From Home to a New Homeland. WKU alumni served as volunteers to offer on-site assistance for this event.

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This event was hosted by the Renwen Society of the China Institute and the Confucius Institute, taking place at the Schwarz Theatre of State University of New York College of Optometry. Dr. Chao founded Foremost Maritime Corporation from scratch, and now it has become a global leader in ship design and technology. His six daughters are all graduates from prestigious universities, including College of William and Mary, Columbia University and Harvard Business School. His first daughter, the honorable Elaine L. Chao, served as U.S. Secretary of Labor from 2001 to 2009. She is the first Asian-American woman in American history to serve in the President’s Cabinet. 90-year old Dr. Chao has dedicated his whole life to promoting education, volunteerism, and philanthropy. Dr. Chao and his family donated 50 million dollars to construct a new building for the Harvard Business School. In Dr. Chao’s speech, he attributed his and his family’s success to faith, fortitude, foresight and philanthropy. These Chinese traditional qualities gave him competitive advantages in doing business in a western environment. Dr. Chao also told the audiences his entrepreneurial experiences and his family’s stories. The honorable Elaine L. Chao was the last speaker of the event. She shared her own story and offered some advice for the young audience.

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The WKU student volunteers’ work was highly praised by the organizer. After the celebration, volunteers took a photo with Dr. and Ms. Chao. Ms. Haina Zhu, the lead representative of WKU alumni, said she would provide more practice chances for WKU students to see the world and carry forward the WKU spirit of serving society and seeking volunteer activities like Ms. Chao. Ms. Chao served as the Director of the Peace Corps (1991-1002), responsible for organizing international volunteers to serving in newly independent countries, such as Latvia and Estonia, when the Soviet Union collapsed.

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