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Interview: Dr. James S.C. Chao, Elaine Chao, Angela Chao Speak with Sina.Com

  • Entire interview on Sina.com

In a 2013 interview, The Honorable Elaine L. Chao, Angela Chao and their father, Dr. James S.C. Chao, speak about the American Dream and how their investment in education contributed to the family’s success.

 

Transcript

President Bush: Thank you all for coming. Good Afternoon. Today, I am pleased to introduce two distinguished Americans. (Elaine Chao) believes deeply in the American dream…because she has lived it. Her successful life gives eloquent testimony to the virtues of hard work and perseverance…and to the unending promise of this great country.

Condoleeza Rice: There are long hours and long days, and there’s a significant amount of stress in those eight years. But you stay focused on the job at hand. You stay focused on your dedication to making the United States a better place and the best public servants are able to do that and Elaine fits into that category. One of the best public servants I have ever known.

Elaine Chao: America’s strength lies in its freedoms and the opportunities that are available in this country. Anyone and I mean anyone who has dreams can excel. Again if they work hard, if they believe in themselves and they never give up.

 

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Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: My parents always emphasized education, because they believed that with the world changing so rapidly the best investment a parent can give to a child, a leader can give to his community is an investment in education. My parents have seen such incredible change as have most Chinese in the 20th century. (What) will enable them to survive and to thrive is indeed education. So, this is not just me. All of us, my sister Angela and others understand that these are my parents’ values.

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Moderator Rui: What do you make of the phenomena that sometimes we in China would run into Chinese Americans those born and raised or maybe born on Chinese land but raised in America. You run into someone like that and the first thing he will say to you is, ‘I’m sorry I do not speak Chinese, I’m American’.

Elaine Chao: I Feel so sad. I Feel so sad. Umm, (speaks in chinese)

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: Speaks (Chinese), So My parents for example. They always emphasized Chinese heritage and Chinese culture. We celebrated all of the Chinese holidays, and they in fact were wonderful parents because they always spoke to us in Chinese, but there are six kids and two parents, so we outnumbered the parents so (Speaks Chinese) because that was our world whenever we left the home, we talked to Americans in English.

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: And so we had very, very humble goals, very modest goals for when we went to America. We just wanted to survive.

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: My classmates in third grade, they all broke out laughing hilariously. I was terribly embarrassed. I was horrified actually.

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: My mother passed away, very sadly on August 2, 2007. My father still lives, while she was alive and even now, they still live in the same house that they’ve lived in for almost 40 years.

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: From the waste, and instead of appreciating it, the teacher was surprised. She had never seen that before. And then of course all of the students, my classmates at third grade, all broke out laughing hilariously. I was terribly embarrassed. I was horrified actually

Angela Chao: When I was little, there were times when I was teased for being the Chinese girl in the class or, you know, my name, my last name. And my mother you know when I was little, it was hurtful and it would make me sad. So I would come home and tell my mom.

Christine Chao: And definitely my parents were very good about always pointing that out, and saying, “You come from this rich history. You are Chinese. You have that history in your blood and you can raise to the challenge. Don’t ever doubt that.”

Moderator Rui: When you are actually there. (speaks Chinese)

Angela Chao: Yes I do (laughs). (Speaks Chinese) So I think that in combination with our western education, we were able to take the best of both worlds and make it our own. I think that’s what is really important. One has to make it his or her own.

Moderator Rui: There is something called execution when it comes to education as well.

Angela Chao: Yes.

Moderator Rui: What might be some of the secret recipe, or if I may call it equation, that made Dr. Chao’s formula effective?

Elaine Chao: My parents made us do lots of things. When we were growing up in a family of girls, every summer we had a summer project. Huge summer project. You can imagine girls want to be pretty. They want to be clean. And We actually one Summer painted our whole entire house. It’s a huge house if I may say so. So each one of us had one side of the house and it took us the whole summer. Another summer project, we have a long driveway, it is one hundred and twenty yards. We tarred the entire driveway ourselves. The six girls and my father and my mo- actually not mommy she was inside cooking or something. So these are projects which my father could have hired other people but he wanted his daughters to understand the value of labor, to be together as a team, to work together.

Angela Chao: I think that one, my father would say that it was both my father and my mother’s equation, because he gives my mother great credit as well. And I think that is also something that is very important. My father always spoke so well of my mother. And my mother always spoke so well of my father. They were really a team. And we saw the mutual respect, the mutual love and the mutual cooperation between the two of them. They were always a team.

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: When he went to America, my mother was seven months pregnant with their third child. And yet my mother was so courageous. She encouraged my father to go to America and seek a better life. Because he took a national examination, scored number one, broke all of the records. And so because of that accomplishment he was able to go to America, but he couldn’t bring us. So it was three years before he was able to establish himself and then bring the family to America. And our initial years in America were very difficult, and yet my parents never lost hope nor their sense of optimism.

Moderator Rui: speaks (Chinese)

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: And so we had very, very humble goals, very modest goals for when we came to America. We just wanted to survive.

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: And so my classmates in third grade all broke out laughing hilariously. I was terribly embarrassed. I was horrified actually.

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: My mother passed away, very sadly on August 2, 2007. My father still lives, while she was alive and even now, they still live in the same house that they’ve lived in for almost 40 years.

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Narrator: speaks (Chinese)

Moderator Rui: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: You know when we went to America, we had no expectations about what life would bring. We were at that time so ignorant of American culture, of American traditions. And our main goal at the time when we first went to America, and so we had very, very humble goals, very modest goals when we can to America. We just wanted to survive and be together as a family. So we never dreamed that we would have all the blessings that we would have today.

Moderator Rui: speaks (Chinese)

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Moderator Rui: Speaks (Chinese)

Angela Chao: You ask a very interesting question because you talked about the second generation and taking over the business and I think its a very nice way of saying, it was a very complimentary way to say that. But I think your question also hit upon that it’s not about taking over the company business. It’s really about honoring the legacy of my parents. It’s the spirit of my parents, it’s their value system and it’s their beliefs. And so when I joined my parents, and my father in particular in the family companies it was with this desire to fulfill my parents’ legacy, to honor my parents in the way that they lived their lives. It was never just to do business or for wealth. It was always to honor the values and legacy that my parents embody.

Elaine Chao: My mother passed away, very sadly on August 2nd, 2007. My father still lives, while she was alive and even now, they still live in the same house that they lived in for almost forty years. And my father still lives a very humble and modest lifestyle even today and we as his children understand that even though my parents worked so hard to build their business to the successful enterprise that it is today, they feel that it is through life’s blessings that they are able to have all of this. Even though they work very hard and they believe very much that it’s our responsibility to contribute to society and to help other people who are less fortunate. So we as children have always been taught that money is not to be enjoyed, its not to be enjoyed. Joy comes from working hard, finding something that you love to do, that’s where true joy is. And so financial wealth is not to be used for individual consumption. My parents have taught us that wealth is to be used to give to others, to help others access education, healthcare. It’s to help other people.

Moderator Rui: speaks (Chinese), Lead with example, speaks (Chinese)

Dr. Chao: speaks (Chinese)

Elaine Chao: Thank you so much.