“Personal fortitude, determination, hope and optimism can do a great deal in making a better life.”

At the International Leadership Foundation’s (ILF's) annual gala dinner, honors of distinction were awarded to Dr. James S.C. Chao and his daughter Angela Chao. Former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao accepted the awards on their behalf, and later sat down with World Journal to discuss the legacy she and her sisters inherited from her parents.

Secretary Chao observed that the ILF award recognizes her father as a leader. She said that he was always a leader in everything that he did, including in the area of philanthropy -- where he blazed new trails for Asian Americans -- and through his philanthropic giving has raised the image of Asian Americans and demonstrated that they are contributing members of mainstream society in the US. The Ruth Mulan Chu Chao Foundation, which Elaine and Angela Chao's parents started, is engaged in international philanthropic efforts, including the construction of a new building on the Harvard campus -- the first to be named after someone with a Chinese surname and the first to be named after a woman.

Secretary Chao also shared that her parents never taught their daughters that it was necessary to choose between East and West, or to live in conflict between the two cultures. Rather they taught her and her five sisters to take the best aspects from each, to integrate them and to forge a path of success with the combined assets. She observed that her sister, Angela Chao, who received the Inspirational Leader award, is a great example of their parents’ teachings as she is deeply immersed in mainstream America -- from her corporate to her philanthropic life, yet she has remained steadfast to her cultural roots and her mission of creating pathways for young Asian Americans to follow.

It was noted by the ILF that Secretary Chao has dedicated all of her life to being a public servant. The ILF spokesperson said that the organization is very proud of the Chao family and hopes that its young people will learn from and be inspired by the family's legacy.